Scots cons get “mindfulness” training in bid to reduce violence

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SOME of Scotland’s most dangerous prisoners have been taking part in yoga classes and doing breathing exercises in a bid to control their violent urges.

Five prisons across the country now offer meditation – or ‘mindfulness’ – courses, which can also involve “alternate-nostril” breathing.

Since 2014, 121 convicts have completed the classes, at a total cost of £9,440 to the taxpayer.

And the list includes 23 men from HMP Shotts, which holds maximum security male prisoners convicted for offences such as murder and rape.

Five prisons now offer the mindfulness course
Five prisons now offer the mindfulness course

The information, revealed in a Freedom of Information request, shows that in 2014 just 18 prisoners from HMP Dumfries took part in the course.

However by 2015 this number had increased five-fold to 103, which includes 26 young offenders from HMP Polmont and 34 short term male prisoners at HMP Perth.

The mindfulness programme aims to provide prisoners with techniques to improve self-discipline, negative emotions, anxieties and the “greater complexities” in their lives.

A complimentary CD is provided to those who take part, which includes three different tracks – a 15 minute Body Scan, a 30 minute Longer Body Scan and a Mindful Movement exercise.

The specific name of the CD is not known, but similar tracks found online encourage the listener to “be aware of their body”.

For example, an online Body Scan exercise prompts the listener to “sit or lie in a comfortable position…loosen any tight clothing.

“Starting with your feet, pay attention to the physical feelings in them…don’t think of them as good or bad, don’t try to change them, just be aware of them.

“Slowly let your awareness drift further up your body, doing the same gentle noticing for all parts of your body.

“If, while doing this exercise, thoughts intrude, that’s okay – just notice the thoughts, notice yourself noticing the thoughts and gently guide your awareness back to your body.”

Other exercises which may be included in the classes are ‘alternate nostril breathing’, where listeners are urged to use their hands to close different nostrils and breathe deeply.

Helpful

Another could be ‘eating mindfulness’, where students are told to “notice whether saliva production increases as you look at the platter”.

Eben Wilson, director of Taxpayer Scotland was supportive of the scheme.

He said: “The classes could be very helpful – one thing prisoners probably need is mindfulness.

“You can’t just lock them away and expect them to get better.

“The classes may help somebody, and if £9,000 can change just one person’s life around that’s brilliant.”

The mindfulness classes at HMP Polmont were a funded research project by the University of Glasgow.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Prison Service said: “Mindfulness has been piloted at five  establishments, one of which was a funded research project by the University of Glasgow.
“The Scottish Prison Service welcomes these initiatives as they provide a valuable contribution to supporting those in our care.”

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