Yoga in prison

July 19, 2010 1:25 PM

The Sun today has the story of the prison inmates who are getting yoga classes, paid for by taxpayers.  Apparently it's to help them relax, but I am not sure how relaxed you can be when you are behind bars, I've been inside a prison (as a visitor incidentally), and they are not exactly full of zen-like calm.

It's simply not enough to make the vague claim that "activities like yoga have a role to play in engaging prisoners in education programmes and those aimed at reducing re-offending", when law-abiding taxpayers, who already pay to incarcerate criminals, can ill afford such luxuries.  There is a lot of work that prisons can do with inmates, much of it with the existing staff and facilities, without having to spend extra money.

Last week I was interviewed on LBC about comments made by Andrew Bridges, the chief inspector of probation.  He had said that the public must decide if it is worth bearing the “cost” of reoffending in order to save money by not keeping criminals in jail for longer.  I argued then, and I will say it here again now, there are many cuts that can be made in prison spending, and these cuts should happen before any conversations about how long we are keeping inmates inside for.  Yoga lessons, drumming classes, and Sky television are all luxuries that could be cut out to make quick, painless savings.

Prisons are there to protect the public by locking up criminals, but they are also there as punishment.  They cannot act as an effective deterrent if they offer an 'easy-ride' to inmates.  Of course there should be rehabilitation too, but we need to examine whether yoga and drumming are the best and most cost-effective way to achieve this.

The Sun today has the story of the prison inmates who are getting yoga classes, paid for by taxpayers.  Apparently it's to help them relax, but I am not sure how relaxed you can be when you are behind bars, I've been inside a prison (as a visitor incidentally), and they are not exactly full of zen-like calm.

It's simply not enough to make the vague claim that "activities like yoga have a role to play in engaging prisoners in education programmes and those aimed at reducing re-offending", when law-abiding taxpayers, who already pay to incarcerate criminals, can ill afford such luxuries.  There is a lot of work that prisons can do with inmates, much of it with the existing staff and facilities, without having to spend extra money.

Last week I was interviewed on LBC about comments made by Andrew Bridges, the chief inspector of probation.  He had said that the public must decide if it is worth bearing the “cost” of reoffending in order to save money by not keeping criminals in jail for longer.  I argued then, and I will say it here again now, there are many cuts that can be made in prison spending, and these cuts should happen before any conversations about how long we are keeping inmates inside for.  Yoga lessons, drumming classes, and Sky television are all luxuries that could be cut out to make quick, painless savings.

Prisons are there to protect the public by locking up criminals, but they are also there as punishment.  They cannot act as an effective deterrent if they offer an 'easy-ride' to inmates.  Of course there should be rehabilitation too, but we need to examine whether yoga and drumming are the best and most cost-effective way to achieve this.

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