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The film, Path of Freedom, explores an innovative approach to rehabilitating prisoners at John J. Moran Medium Security Facility, a Rhode Island men's prison. Fleet Maull, a former inmate and founder of the Prison Mindfulness Institute (PMI), teaches basic meditation techniques at Moran, empowering prisoners to take responsibility for their lives. In 1989, while serving a 14.5-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for drug smuggling, Maull founded the PMI and led a twice-weekly meditation group in the prison chapel. Today, his focus includes programs for prison guards and administrators to help transform the corrections system as a whole.

According to a 2014 National Research Council report, United States incarceration rates have more than quadrupled in the last four decades, bringing the effectiveness and growing costs of our prison system under increasing scrutiny. As stated in the report, the U.S. now has the highest incarceration rate in the world, housing approximately 1 in 100 adults on any given day.

Innovative programs, like the PMI, bring meditation, art, theater, and dance into prisons. Their methods and techniques, designed to help inmates develop insight, impulse control, empathy, and improve decision-making, are often founded on evidenced-based approaches to social emotional learning. Studies have shown that addressing cognitive and psychological patterns within inmates supports prosocial behavior after inmates are released, reducing recidivism, or the act of repeating criminal behavior.

Take a look at this infographic, Incarceration in the U.S.: Dissecting the World's Largest Prison Population from Boston University. 

Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa from 1994-1999, was imprisoned for 27 years for his revolutionary work in protest of apartheid, a system of racial segregation in South African. Mandela said, "To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

Listen to this story Teaching Shakespeare in a Maximum Security Prison from NPR. 

Damon Horowitz teaches philosophy through the Prison University Project. Listen to his TED Talk: Philosophy in Prison.  

Prison reform advocate Ismael Nazario helps former inmates from New York's Rikers Island jail reenter society. What I learned as kid in jail tells his story, a TED Talk, to help teens in jail. 

For a full lesson plan based on this film, including connections to National Standards and the Common Core, visit the Global Oneness Project

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Point Reyes Station, CA, United States