Since 2008, YBB has equipped thousands of incarcerated men, women, and youth with the physical and mental tools to change their lives from the inside out.
The U.S. is the world’s largest jailer.
Did you know that more than 2.2 million people in the United States are behind bars?
Incarceration has increasingly become an inefficient panacea for many other social issues such as mental illness, racism, poverty, homelessness, and drug addiction. Yoga Behind Bars is committed to breaking this cycle of suffering, and to give people behind bars the opportunity to heal, grow, and prepare for their return to our communities.
WHY TRAUMA INFORMED YOGA?
In short, yoga and meditation work.
People who practice yoga in prison, are less likely to return upon release. The behaviors that lead people to prison are often the result of deeply held trauma. The yoga we teach aims to safely release this unresolved trauma by addressing the root cause rather than symptoms.
Most of our students return to society, about 97%. When they do, we want them to thrive and be leaders for change. Our programs give students the tools and self-esteem to do so.
In addition to the physical benefits and improved overall well-being, yoga and meditation have been scientifically proven to:
- Drastically reduce rates of recidivism, people who practice yoga and meditation behind bars are less likely to return to prison once they have finished their sentence
- Only 8% of individuals who took 4 or more yoga classes returned to prison, compared with a national average of 60% recidivism.
- Reduce depression, anger, and anxiety, often a root cause of destructive behavior and drug use.
- Be an effective adjunctive therapy during treatment for drug addiction, which is a co-factor in many of our students’ incarceration.
“Trauma sensitive yoga can be incredibly powerful in the healing of a woman who has experienced significant hardship whether incarcerated or not.”
– Staff member at Washington Corrections Center for Women, 2016
Yoga Behind Bars by the numbers
Our team of 100+ volunteer instructors currently reach an average of 250 students through 37 classes weekly, in 17 different facilities in 7 Washington State Counties each week. We teach at all custody levels, maximum, medium, and minimum, as well as solitary confinement.
Our students give this work meaning. Each year we teach thousands of incarcerated people yoga, and bring meditation and asanas to a variety of populations, including youth, the mental health unit at the women’s prison, the Veteran’s pod at Kent Jail, and men in solitary at the Monroe prison.
Volunteer Teachers Trained
Our 17-hour trauma-informed trainings provide up-to-date skills for working with vulnerable populations behind and beyond bars. Our teacher trainees join us to deepen their own practice and learn trauma-informed healing modalities to address the unique challenges faced by populations impacted by trauma.
Inmate Teachers Trained
In August of 2015, 10 men from 5 different prisons around the state were transferred to Stafford Creek Corrections Center to start their training. They graduated in February 2016 and are now teaching yoga classes at 5 facilities across the state. In October of 2016, 10 women at Washington Corrections Center for Women started their training, and 5 of them graduated in April 2017.
Teach Behind Bars
WHERE WE TEACH
17 Facilities across 9 Washington State counties.
Today a team of over 100+ incredible yoga instructors teach an average of 37 classes a week in
seventeen locations. Starting with one yoga teacher in Seattle’s downtown jail in 2008, we now offer classes
in minimum, medium, and maximum custody, solitary confinement, mental health treatment units, as well
as classes for incarcerated veterans. Every day an average of 30 youth, women, and men practice yoga and
meditation through our programs. Below is a list of where we teach:
Clallam Bay Corrections Center
Monroe Correctional Complex
Washington State Reformatory
Stafford Creek Corrections Center
King County Correctional Facility
Maleng Regional Justice Center
Washington Corrections Center for Women
Federal Detention Center, SeaTac
King County Juvenile Detention Center
Echo Glen Children’s Center
Denney Juvenile Justice Center
Airway Heights Corrections Center
Washington State Penitentiary
Coyote Ridge Corrections Center
Washington Corrections Center
Whatcom County Juvenile Court
Washington Corrections Center in Shelton
Whatcom County Juvenile Detention Center
Books, blogs, and authors we love
- US News’ How Yoga Helps Survivors of Trauma
- Yoga Helps At-Risk Girls Cope with Trauma, a Georgetown Law report
- WNYC’s How America Can Cut the Prison Population in Half
- Upworthy’s – The Numbers Behind Why America Has So Many People in Prison
- ACLU’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Infographic
- Fact Sheet: How Bad is the School to Prison Pipeline?
- A White Yogis 9-Step Guide towards Action for Racial Justice in Ferguson and Beyond
- Overlooked: Women in Jail, by the Vera Institute
- Reimagining Prison, by the Vera Institute
- Life Cycles of Inequality, by Colorlines
- Frontline’s Life on Parole
- Michelle Alexander interview on Democracy Now
- Racial Inequality in the Criminal Justice System by learnliberty.org
- The War on Drugs and the War on Immigrants is Intertwined, by Colorlines