The benefits of the program extend to prisoners, prison staff, individuals and organizations involved in the incarceration system, as well as to society as a whole. The benefits are validated by feedback from inmates, feedback from prison staff, and from a number of studies which have been carried out.

Feedback from inmates on the positive medical and psychological effects of the training:

– normalized sleep patterns

– reduced depression and anxiety

– decreased reliance on medication and drugs

– increased resilience to daily stressors of life

– increased energy

– increased focus and clarity of mind

– increased self-esteem and confidence

– decreased interpersonal conflicts

– decreased engaging in destructive behaviour

– improved immunity and physical well-being

– freedom from traumatic scars of the past

– greater positive outlook on the future

 Research Findings

Prison Smart teaches a comprehensive program of breathing practices, including the advanced Sudarshan Kriya (SK) breathing technique, which has been the subject of independent investigation and research in hospitals and research institutions worldwide. Various studies have also been conducted in prisons themselves. The following are measurable benefits which have been demonstrated by these research studies:

Reduced Anger and Violence

– Measurable and sustained reductions in violence, anger, and rebelliousness. A 2005 study of 604 prisoners in the Taipei Tu-Chen Detention Centre, Taiwan, found that 86% of prisoners felt improvement with regard to their anger. (14)

– Less fights, incidents and disciplinary actions. Improvements of 21-38% were reported by a study at Los Angeles County Lancaster Probation Camp. (15)

Reduced levels of stress

– The breathing technique has demonstrated to reduce the level of blood lactate and Cortisol, the “stress” hormone. (4, 8, 12, 13)

– A study of the Slovenian Ministry of Internal Affairs on the anti-stress programs for police showed that the program was efficient in reducing stress and in improving the ability of the staff to handle stressful situations at work. (see below)

– In 2003, a stress management program carried out for Police Officers in Washington DC revealed significant beneficial effects on depression and on stress related problems (including stress related illness and stress leave time). (16)

– Treatment of post-traumatic stress syndrome. The breathing techniques relieved the psychological distress of the survivors of the recent Tsunami. (11)

Reduced depression

– The breathing techniques have been shown to have a success rate of 68-73% in treating clinical depression, regardless of severity. According to one study, substantial relief was experienced in three weeks. By one month patients were considered to be in remission. At three months, the patients remained asymptomatic and stable (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16).

– There is an increased risk of self-harm and suicide within prisons. Prison staff from Kosovo has reported that as a result of the Prison SMART course, self-harm and suicides had fallen from around 300 incidents in 2004, to only 22 in 2006.

Improved Quality of Life

– Measurable and sustained reductions in drug use.

o In a 2005 study, the breathing techniques were shown to reduce tobacco use in 21% of individuals at six months of practice. (3)

o The De-addiction Research Centre near Calcutta, operating with the same breathing techniques as Prison SMART, has a 37% recovery rate in the treatment of drug and alcohol addicts. They found that Sudarshan Kriya establishes the mental strength and control which is critical for emerging out of addiction and prevent possible relapses. (9)

– Reduction in reoffending, as evidenced by individual offenders who have adopted the breathing practices and who on leaving prison have been able to turn their back on their previous life of drugs and crime. (See Breathe SMART program in Denmark)

– Better sleeping. 80% of the inmates report improvement in sleep as a result of the Program. (14, 16)

– Measurable results that course participants feel better about themselves. (12, 13, 14, 16)

Reducing Reoffending

While Prison SMART does not yet have hard data to prove its effectiveness in reducing reoffending (due to its own limited research capacity), it has collected significant empirical and proxy evidence of its potential to reduce reoffending:

The statistical evaluation above shows significant improvements with regard to factors contributing to reoffending (in line with positive criminology, positive psychology, the good lives model and desistance / resilience model – see below).

There is widespread empirical evidence worldwide of individual offenders who, upon completing Prison / Breathe SMART, have been able to turn their back on their previous life of drugs and crime. Some offenders have developed to become Prison / Breathe SMART trainers themselves.

Between 95-100% of participants in HMP Thameside state that this course will help them to avoid reoffending:

“If the person takes this course to heart, there is no need or point to reoffend. It is the best course I have done in prison without a doubt. I would say the only course I have completed that really has the power to change. I wish I had not wasted so much time. I wish I was stronger and had not been immersed in self-pity. I have been building up to this for about 10 years. It was the final push I needed and has given me the techniques I need to move forward and conquer, ie achieve all I know I am capable of achieving. This should be endorsed by the Governor and staff of any prison as well as the inmates. The sky is the limit if they all did this course. So rock on!”

“Before the course I was very upset with myself, the decisions I’ve made in the past. It was quite easy to push my buttons. This course helped me to release a lot of pain I had locked up inside and showed me how to love myself and be happy with who I am. If everything happens for a reason, this course was the reason I came to jail. I would recommend it to anyone, it helped me to forgive myself and others. Every body should give it a try. I hope it helps others the same way it helped me.”

Medical research

1. Bhatia, M., et al., ‘Electrophysiologic Evaluation of Sudarshan Kriya: an EEG, BAER, P300 Study.’, Indian J Physiol Pharmacol, 2003, Apr;47(2):157-63, PMID: 15255618
2. Kjellgren, A., et al., ‘Wellness through a comprehensive yogic breathing program – a controlled pilot trial.’, in: BMC Complement Altern Med. 2007 Dec 19;7:43. PMID: 18093307.
3. Kochupillai, V., et al., ‘Effect of rhythmic breathing (Sudarshan Kriya and Pranayam) on immune functions and tobacco addiction.’ In: Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Nov;1056:242-52. PMID: 16387692
4. Sharma, H., et al., ‘Sudarshan Kriya practitioners exhibit better antioxidant status and lower blood lactate levels.’, in: Biol Psychol. 2003 Jul;63(3):281-91, PMID: 12853172
5. Srinivasan, N., Baijal, S., ‘Concentrative meditation enhances preattentive processing: a mismatch negativity study.’, in: Neuroreport 2007 Oct 29;18(16):1709-12., PMID: 17921873
Treatment of Depression
6. Brown RP, et al. “Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing in the Treatment of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Part I — Neurophysiologic Model,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Feb. 2005): Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 189–201 / Part II — Clinical Applications and Guidelines,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Aug. 2005): Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 711–17.
7. Naga Venkatesha Murthy, P.J., et al., ‘P300 amplitude and antidepressant response to Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY).’, in: Journal of Affective Disorders 1998 Jul;50(1):45-8. PMID: 9716279.
8. Gangadhar B. Et al. “Stress-Related Biochemical Effects of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga in Depressed Patients”, paper presented to the UN NGO Mental Health Committee in New York, 2000.
9. Gangadhar B. Et al. “Antidepressant efficacy and hormonal effects of Sudarshana Kriya Yoga in alcohol dependent individuals”, Journal of Affective Disorders (August 2006): Vol. 94, No. 1, pp. 249-253.
10. Janakiramaiah N, et al. “Antidepressant Efficacy of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) in Melancholia: A Randomized Comparison with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Imipramine,” Journal of Affective Disorders (Jan.–March 2000): Vol. 57, No. 1–3, pp. 255–59.
In a Randomised controlled trial, 45 hospitalised patients, with severe melancholic depression were divided into three groups – where the effect of the breathing technique was compared with ECT(Electroconvulsive Therapy) and Imipramine (a standard antidepressant). The breathing technique was as effective as standard antidepressant drug therapy (67% remission rate), and almost as effective as ECT, as indicated by reductions in Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) total scores. Considering the severity of the patients’ depressions, the remission rate of 67% with SKY is impressive and suggests that it offers an effective alternative, even in severe depression. Furthermore, it is self-administered and free of the side effects that can be caused by ECT or imipramine.

Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder

11. Descilo T, Vedamurtachar A, Gerbarg PL, Nagaraja D, Gangadhar BN, Damodaran B,
Adelson B, Braslow LH, Marcus S, Brown RP. Effects of a yoga breath intervention alone and in combination with an exposure therapy for PTSD and depression in survivors of the 2004 South-East Asia tsunami, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 2010, Vol. 121:4, pp.289-300.

Eight months after the 2004 tsunami, 183 survivors living in refugee camps were given a
yoga breathing program alone or a yoga breathing program followed by trauma reduction exposure therapy. These groups had significantly reduced scores on the Post-traumatic checklist (PCL-17) and on depression (BDI-21) compared with that in a wait list control group, indicating that yoga breath-based interventions may help relieve psychological distress following disasters.

Research studies in prisons

12. In 2009, Anetta Jaworska conducted research in Polish penitentiary institutions on the psycho-correctional effect of the “Prison Smart” program, involving 374 prisoners. The results were published in the dissertation under the title “Alternative Therapy in Penitentiary Resocialisation” and indicated:

– the increase of the prisoners’ sense of life
– the increase of positive attitudes to their lives
– the reduction of physical as well as emotional stress
– the reduction of fear
– the reduction of episodes of depression among prisoners

13. A Slovenian research team conducted a specialized psychological study with the participants of the stress-management courses in Bulgaria, comparing them with a control group that did not do the courses. The research statistics showed significant decrease in the measurements of emotional suffering, level of depression, level of aggression and level of indifference and a significant increase in the feeling of contentment and the level of self-confidence.

14. According to a study on Prison SMART in the Taipei Tu-Chen Detention Center in Taiwan, looking at several parameters, the majority of the inmates surveyed showed significant improvements in:
a. – Quality of sleep (83%)
b. – Clarity of mind (87%)
c. – Physical Strength (83%)
d. – Emotional Stability and a Calmer Mind (86%)
e. – Health Status (81%)
f. – Emotion of Anger (86%)
g. – Emotion of Fear (81%)
h. – Depression (82%)

15. Anxiety Study at Los Angeles Count Lancaster Probation Camp for Violent Youth Offenders (January to June 2001) by Verna Suarez, M.S., MFT President of Los Angeles Association Of School Psychologists. The subjects, aged 13-18, were 707B offenders of violent crimes involving deadly weapons, murder, rape, armed robbery, and terrorizing threats against others. The results of this study showed:
– a significant decrease in anxiety which led in turn to a decrease in anger and reactive behaviors that were previously reported.
– the number of minors in incident reports decreased significantly (21-38%) within the four-month period that these courses were taught.
– the staff reported there were no night-time disturbances on the evenings that the Sudarshan Kriya and meditations were conducted.
Due to the success of the program, the directors from five other camps at Challenger Memorial Youth Center, where this program was being conducted, had all requested that this program be put into their camps. Further studies on larger numbers of subjects, with controls, are needed to confirm these findings.

16. Stress-Management for Law Enforcement, Pilot Study (June, 2003) conducted by Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, in association with The Paradigm Consulting Group of Tulsa. Inc. Results of the study, including patrol officers (8), sergeants (6), lieutenants (6), civilian employees (7) and eight (8) individuals without rank identification, demonstrated:
1. Significant reductions in perceived stress levels (as measured by the Index of Clinical Stress).
2. Significant reductions in depression (as measured by the State-Trait Depression Inventory).
3. Significant improvement in the ability to fall and remain asleep, and to feel refreshed upon awakening (as measured by self-report surveys).
4. Significant improvement in digestion (as measured by self-report surveys).
(Individuals were surveyed on quality and quantity of sleep as well as digestive
disturbances, as these are common physical indicators of stress in police personnel.)
Participants also reported (via satisfaction survey results and participant comments)
enhanced feelings of well-being, improved focus, and an expectation that they would be better able to deal with daily stress once returning to their regular duties.