A meditation technique has been praised for pacifying what was once among Mexico's most violent prisons, demonstrating the success of rehabilitation techniques in a region characterized by a lack of state control in its jails.
Apodaca prison in the state of Nuevo León was the scene of one of the most violent jail incidents in recent Mexican history, but it is now among the calmest in the country, according to a recent BBC Mundo report.
Behind this dramatic turnaround is a meditation program that is being carried out among 700 inmates, the news outlet reported. The technique, known as "Ishayas' Ascension," has been in place since 2014 and also involves prison guards and administrative staff.
No cases of extreme violence has been registered since its implementation, the meditation program's coordinator -- known as Madhavi Ishaya -- told BBC Mundo.
This provides a stark contrast from only a few years ago. In 2011, 14 Apodaca detainees were killed and their bodies incinerated. A riot the following year claimed the lives of 44 prisoners, and was the spark for authorities to search for a solution to the violence, according to BBC Mundo.
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The chosen meditation method has been used to promote peaceful cohabitation in communities around the world, and was the star of a recent documentary called "Choice."
The constant underlying tension among prisoners makes them more prone to outbreaks of aggression, but meditation reduces stress and encourages permanent state of wellbeing, Ishaya explained to BBC Mundo.
"If people are happy they aren't violent, when they're happy they don't hurt anyone," she said.
The meditation program has reportedly been implemented for at least 13 years in prisons across Mexico, and it will now be applied to two other penitentiaries in Nuevo León.
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Aggressive crackdowns on criminal groups coupled with a lack of state authority can turn a country's penitentiaries into hotspots of organized crime. Nevertheless, promoting cohabitation among inmates could help diminish clashes between rival gangs that are often required to live under the same roof.
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In addition to the meditation program, other successful initiatives that have been implemented in Latin American jails include therapy sessions and workshops to rehabilitate young detainees in Guatemala, sports activities that have helped reduce prison violence and levels of recidivism in Argentina, and religious programs focusing on spiritual development, family ties and education in Chile.
Still, while positive, it may be difficult for peace-building techniques such as these to mitigate the powerful forces that often drive prison violence. In Brazil, for example, a recent spate of jail killings has been linked to the breakdown of a nationwide truce between the country's two main gangs.