Traditionally, many U.S. counties have relied on “scared straight” tactics to keep youth from getting back in trouble. In Florida, for example, one juvenile detention center sits down young offenders in front of a “wall of shame,” a collection of photos of teens who have been shot and killed post-release. But one city is trading in these scare methods for a yoga mat and a couple of hours of meditation.
That was the case for Miguel, a 23 year-old ex-offender from Brooklyn, New York. His story was recently the topic of an article in GOOD, “Can Court Mandated Yoga and Meditation Keep Kids Out of Prison?"
A year ago, Miguel was convicted of a felony. Rather than sentence him to a year in prison, the judge mandated he join a yearlong program run by a local organization. One aspect of the program was an anger management class. But it wasn’t your typical therapy session. During a typical session, participants learn Tai Chi movement or yoga or meditation techniques.
According to the class website, the program aims to teach young people ages 11 to 24 practices to “decrease impulsive behaviors that lead youth toward incarceration, prepare them to become functioning members of society, and enable them to act as role models for other young people in their communities.”
The yoga program, which has been run by the Lineage Project for the last five years, may sound a little out there, but Miguel says it has worked for him. He has even led a few yoga classes and was given a scholarship to attend a 20-hour training workshop to become a teacher. He hopes to bring what he has learned to his community when he finishes his time in the program in April.
“[The program] helped me tune into myself, changed my awareness of my surroundings,” he said in the GOOD article. “I felt as if I had finally come home.”
This article was originally published on youthradio.org on February 21, 2013.