Peace and Punishment

St. Louis judges turn to Transcendental Meditation to rehab convicted felons

Anecdotal testimony from judges, probation officers and graduates is overwhelmingly positive.

"When I got into this class, all the cigarettes, the weed, the alcohol, everything disappeared from my life, and it wasn't even conscious," says graduate Tyron Henry. "Suddenly you realize you're watching a football game and you don't have a beer next to you, and you're like, wait a minute — something's happened here!"

Says Mason: "Of the more than a hundred I've sentenced, maybe three or four have come back in front of me."

Ex-con Keith Mason says TM has made him "a glowing man."
Jennifer Silverberg
Ex-con Keith Mason says TM has made him "a glowing man."

Today five state and federal judges in Missouri sentence probationers to the Enlightened Sentencing Project, which has also been embraced by State Supreme Court Justice Michael Wolff.

Can TM even rehabilitate murderers?

"It would be extraordinary to say we could fix that kind of person," replies Wolff. "But at the lower levels of crime, we really ought to be thinking about how to fix people, how to fix ourselves, because sooner or later the people committing these crimes are going to come back into our community."

If Anklesaria had his way, the Missouri Department of Corrections would allow him to teach the method in a maximum-security prison. "It would become absolutely apparent as night is from day that the meditating population would show significant improvements in recidivism."

It's a bold wager, says Beth Huebner, assistant professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. "That would probably not play too well. Taxpayers want criminals to be punished."

TM devotee Keith Mason, who finished the class last August, says he'd be the first to help Anklesaria teach, should the program ever get enough resources to expand.

"I learned patience," says Mason. "My temper ain't bad no more, and I can do things I couldn't do, like get up and walk. I can walk without my cane. I don't even take any more pain medication for my leg."

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