There's no denying that America's prison system as a whole has been cast in a negative light by scandal, corruption, abuse of power, overcrowding, atrocious living conditions, and a narrative of fear. Popular culture and social perspective have put their own fictional spin on the realities of life behind bars. Sadly, many Americans have arrived at arbitrary points of opinion which justify denying nearly every basic human right to prisoners.
Graterford, however, is on the threshold of serving as a model for prison system wellness programs of the future. Transformation Yoga Project has been contracted to facilitate two classes per week, both of which are receiving rave reviews. We've seen heavy turnout from a dedicated group of guys and, thus far, the administration has been incredibly supportive and communicative. The powers that be are clearly beginning to see yoga as a way to cultivate peace, health, harmony, and overall well-being within the inmate population.
While our programming is being welcomed into Graterford, expanding funding is a growing issue. To establish a sustainable yoga revolution within Philadelphia's Prison System, a bigger brigade of dedicated volunteers and generous donors will be needed.
In an industry dominated primarily by female instructors, the fact that women are not permitted to teach yoga at Graterford is yet another challenge. As TYP's program gains momentum and the positive results become more evident, hopefully a possibility to break the gender barrier will present itself. With the construction of the SCI Phoenix women's correctional unit in the near future, opportunities for female yoga instructors will most certainly open up.
This much anticipated addition to the Graterford complex is necessary because roughly 75% of the Commonwealth's female inmates are from Southeastern Pennsylvania. Due to a lack of adequate containment facilities in this densely populated region, they are immediately transported out west. The prisons they are transferred to are many hours away from their homes, making family visits with their children difficult at best and impossible at worst.
While SCI Phoenix will undoubtedly lessen the familial stress of imprisonment, making room in the budget for the women will cause a space crunch for the existing male population. Graterford's official holding capacity is already being exceeded and overcrowding is a common complaint among insiders. This is why a new men's facility is also being built. When completed, all of the incarcerated men currently being housed at Graterford will be transported to SCI Phoenix. For financial reasons, single cells will become a thing of the past and double bunks will be the new normal. The compression will almost certainly cause friction among men who've bunked alone for decades.
Now- perhaps more than ever- mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation will be a crucial component for cultivating a sense of calm in the midst of chaos. Transformation Yoga Project stands poised upon the precipice of pioneering truly transformational prison programs. If yoga service within the justice system is something you are seriously considering now- perhaps more than ever- is the time to take that final step.
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