Reaching Out to the Incarcerated as a Buddhist Practice: A Tale of Compassion in Arkansas

The subject of mass incarceration in the United States has long captured the imagination and concern of the world beyond the country’s borders. Mass incarceration has been the subject of numerous human rights campaigns, films, studies, and other inquiries that have sought to question the morality of this phenomenon.

The Sentencing Project, a Washington, DC-based research and advocacy center, documents that the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world—670 people per every 100,000 US citizens, followed in second place by Rwanda, which has 434 people incarcerated for every 100,000 citizens.

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Morgan Leyenberger
Volunteer Yoga Instructor at Varner SuperMax

Tracy Davis begin teaching yoga at Varner SuperMax about two months ago. Since she started, her class as grown exponentially. Read our Q&A to find out more about the yoga group at Varner SuperMax. 

Q: Tell us about the training that prepared you to teach yoga in a prison.

A: I am a 500 hour certified yoga teacher through Circle Yoga Shala, and in between my 200 and 500 hour trainings, I went to Denver, Colorado to the Prison Yoga Project training taught by founder, James Fox.

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Letters from Inmates Offer Hope to Youth

by Deni Camper, July 21, 2017

WEST FORK, Ark. - Arkansas has one of the fastest growing incarceration rates in the U.S., with between sixteen and eighteen thousand people currently being held behind bars. 

One group is using the words and experiences of some of these men to give hope to young people who are at risk of becoming the next generation of inmates. 

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Morgan Leyenberger
Last Night in Arkansas What it was like waiting for death with one of the four men executed by the state in April.

Just before his execution in Arkansas on April 24, Jack Jones ate a final meal of fried chicken, potato logs with tarter sauce, beef jerky bites, three candy bars, a chocolate milkshake, and fruit punch—or at least that’s what was reported in the news. But it’s not true.

According to the only person who sat with Jones as he waited to die, what he really ate was a small serving of the potato logs and a melted chocolate shake—an account confirmed by the official internal affairs log of the execution. There was no chicken. Jones asked for it but didn’t get it.

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Morgan Leyenberger
“Compassion Works for All” Guides Prisoners to a Better Life

by Sarah White, April 26, 2016

Meditation and mindfulness are often touted as being keys to health and well being in the busy, stressful world we live in today, and having these skills is even more important for people who are in prison, because they have so little control over what happens in their daily lives.

Anna Cox, LCSW, a Buddhist and retired psychotherapist from Little Rock began visiting prisons in 1993, teaching meditation and helping prisoners to cope with loss and difficulties of life in prison.

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NewsMorgan Leyenberger