In 1996, Prison Life magazine published an article written by an inmate describing the inspiration and joy the "Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga" (CIBY) by Swami Vishnudevananda brought him. A book review mentioned that the book was available to all prisoners at no cost. Within weeks a deluge of letters from inmates arrived at the Sivananda AshramYoga Ranch, upstate New York, requesting copies of the book.
Letter correspondence with the prisoners began immediately, as did a fundraising program to meet the growing requests for books. Heartfelt letters of gratitude from prisoners proved the initial success of the Project, gave them a sense of “belonging”, enabling them to express their feelings and aspirations, and gave them a safe place to ask questions and have their doubts cleared.
Yoga classes began in 1998 at two local New York prisons. The program succeeded immediately, uplifting and inspiring inmates.
Our biggest activity continues to be distribution of the CIBY and other publications by Swami Vishnu and Swami Sivananda. To date the Prison Project has mailed well over 4500 books.
Illustration by an inmate
The genuine sympathy of well-wishers has kept the program alive. Even $14 can buy one book.
Although most prisoner correspondence relates to book requests, many letters come from inmates who are serious spiritual practitioners, who receive advice and guidance.
During the past 14 years, we have gained valuable insight into the prison system, which unfortunately does not live up to the true meaning of “correctional facility.” We believe in teaching prisoners a new way of thinking that empowers them to lead cleaner, more peaceful lives through Yoga in its many forms.
Although USA prison libraries contain many religious books, there are very few on Yoga and Eastern philosophy.
100% of all donations go to Prison Project activities such as purchasing books and other Yoga items, correspondence expenses, occasional visits to prisoners, and costs involved in teaching in prisons. There are no salaries to be paid or any administration costs, and all donations are tax-deductible. Your generous donations are much appreciated, and can make a great difference to an inmate locked up for years on end.
You may pay by clicking on this PayPal button. We accept checks (made out to Sivananda Prison Project), Visa, MasterCard, or Discover credit cards. Address your envelopes to Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, Attention Prison Project, 1200 Arguello Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94122. For credit card payments, call us on (415)681-2731. Ask to speak with Swami Padmapadananda. All information will be treated with confidentiality.
The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, 756 per 100,000 of the national population (2008). At yearend 2008, the total incarcerated population equaled 2,424,279 inmates.
(Ref: http://drugwarfacts.org/cms/?q=node/62). The average cost to house a prisoner is approx. $55/day, which amounts to about $20,000/year. Inmates in solitary confinement can cost $60,000/year.
States are spending more money on prisons than education. Over the course of the last 20 years, the amount of money spent on prisons was increased by 570% while that spent on elementary and secondary education was increased by only 33%. (Ref: http://www.heartsandminds.org/prisons/facts.htm).