founded by S. N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin

 

 

 

 

 

Prison Courses Timeline

  • The Beginning

    The consistent efforts of Mr. Ram Singh, the then Home Secretary of Rajasthan, resulted in holding the first Vipassana course in Jaipur Central Jail in October 1975. In spite of numerous administrative challenges, this first ever prison course was attended by 114 inmates. After the success of the first course, subsequent courses were organized for life-term convicts, senior police officers and correction officials. The impressive results of these courses pioneered the use of Vipassana as an instrument of reform in correctional facilities in India and across the world. Read more...

  • Rajasthan & Gujarat

    Seven prison courses were organized in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat, after a gap of more than a decade. These courses were the subject of several sociological studies conducted by the Gujarat State Department of Education and the University of Rajasthan. The research indicated definite positive changes of attitude and behavior in the participants, harmonious relations among the prisoners and jail staff, and a dramatic increase in self-discipline, demonstrating that Vipassana can help criminals become wholesome members of the society. Read more...

  • Tihar Jail

    The first Vipassana course conducted in Tihar jail, New Delhi, one of the largest jails in Asia, housing approximately 10,000 inmates, was under the dynamic and exemplary leadership of Dr. Kiran Bedi, then Inspector General of Prisons. Motivated with a conviction that prisons should be institutions of rehabilitation, not punishment, Dr. Bedi arranged the first course for 96 inmates and 23 jail staff. The success of the first course led to a second course in January 1994 in which 300 inmates participated. Read more...

  • Dhamma Tihar

    Encouraged with results of earlier courses, Dr. Bedi arranged for the largest Vipassana course in Tihar Jail which was conducted by Mr. & Mrs. Goenka and thirteen assistant teachers for over 1000 inmates. In spite of severe weather conditions, the course completed successfully resulting in the establishment of a permanent Vipassana Center, Dhamma Tihar, in the premises of Tihar jail, the first ever Vipassana center to be developed in the prison. After witnessing the impressive results of the course, the Ministry of Home Affairs adopted the proposal to introduce Vipassana as a reform measure in all the prisons in the country. Read more...

  • Taiwan

    The first 10-day Vipassana course was held at Ming Te Branch Prison, an experimental drug rehabilitation institution housing inmates convicted of narcotics use, in the lush, wooded mountains situated near Tainan on the southwestern coast of Taiwan. 24 inmates attended the course and in a move unprecedented in Taiwan penal history, Mr. S. N. Geonka was invited to give the closing address to the participants of the course. Read more...

  • USA

    The first Vipassana course in US prison was organized in North Rehabilitation Facility (NRF), Washington. The success of the first course resulted in the arrangement of regular courses in NRF and the organization of Vipassana courses in other correctional facilities including San Francisco Jail #7, California and W.E. Donaldson Correctional Facility, Alabama, a maximum-security facility. This year also witnessed establishment of North American Vipassana Prison Trust, which offers 10-day Vipassana programmes at correctional facilities in North America. Read more...

  • United Kingdom

    The first 10-day Vipassana prison course in Europe was conducted at Lancaster Castle Prison, one of the places with the longest record of continuous use for incarceration in the world, in United Kingdom. Eight inmates attended the course. Despite inconveniences, they worked seriously and gained greatly from the experience. The Prison Journal Service, issue 127 reported that Lancasters Education Department had noted that there was a marked change for the better in personal discipline, willingness to learn and quality of output from the course participants. Read more...

  • New Zealand

    The first Vipassana course was organized in ‘Te Ihi Tu’, a rehabilitation center in New Plymouth, a city on the North Island of New Zealand, run by Maoris (the indigenous people of New Zealand), for Maori pre-release prisoners and parolees. Vipassana course forms a part of their three-month pre-release program, which starts with a ten-day Vipassana Meditation course. Since 1999, multiple Vipassana courses were held at Te Ihi Tu, making it an integral part of their program. Read more....

  • Thailand

    Influenced by the film “Doing time, Doing Vipassana”, Inspector General of Prisons was instrumental in arranging the first Vipassana course at Kolong Pai Prison in Sikhiu District, northeast of Bangkok. Forty-nine male drug offenders and two prison staff attended this course. The success of this course resulted in conducting a second course for 50 women at a separate women’s facility two months later. The Inspector General of prisons attended this course choosing to occupy a prison cell with basic toilet facilities just like the other students. Read more...

  • Spain & Mexico

    The first 10-day course in Spain was conducted at Can Brians Jail, high-security facility near Martorell, Barcelona. The consistent efforts of an old student were instrumental in arranging this course. Attended by 18 inmates, this course was a great success in spite of some difficulties. In the same year, the first prison course was organized in Mexico at Penal de Santiaguito facility. Known for its willingness to experiment with various reform instruments, this facility, housing about 1,500 inmates, accepted Vipassana meditation with open arms. Read more...

  • Sri Lanka

    Bogambara, a maximum security prison and the second-largest correctional facility, situated in the old city of Kandy in the Central Province arranged the first 10 day Vipassana course for 46 inmates in Sri Lanka. On the last day of the course, meditators were provided with an opportunity to share their experience of the course to the gathering, which included a former Chief Justice of Sri Lanka and a former Commissioner of Prisons. Read more...

  • Mongolia

    The first 10-day Vipassana course in the female only correctional facility in Mongolia was conducted as a result of a direct order from the Minister of Justice. The first course was followed by a second course in 2007 which was attended by 25 inmates. At the end of the course, many students expressed responsibility and regret for crimes committed, mistakes made and resentment that they had suffered for many years. The department of justice also made arrangements for inmates of mens’ prison to enable them to join a 10-day course. Read more...

  • Israel

    The first Vipassana Course was conducted in December 2006 at Hermon Prison, a minimum-security rehabilitation facility located in a quiet area of Lower Galilee, after almost a decade of consistent efforts. Inspite of some initial difficulties, 13 inmates, including recovering addicts and repeated offenders from different religious backgrounds successfully completed the course. After successful completion of the first course, the second course was arranged in Hermon Prison during April-May 2007. Non-meditators attending the closing ceremony were struck by the change in the students. Read more...

  • Myanmar

    The first 10-day Vipassana course was successfully organized at Insein Central Prison, Yangon, Myanmar, in July 2008 and a center was established within the prison. On July 27, 2008, Anapana course was also held for 169 young male inmates. This Center was followed by two more permanent Vipassana centers in prisons. Dhamma Rakkhita, (Guardian of Dhamma) was established in Thayawaddi Prison in Bago division in 2009 and Dhamma Vimutti (Liberation by Dhamma), was established in Obo Jail, Mandalay in 2010. Read more...

  • Canada & Colombia

    Westmorland Institution in eastern Canada hosted the country's first Vipassana meditation course to be held in a correctional facility. In the same year, the first Vipassana Course was conducted in March 2011 at Reclusión de Mujeres, a women‘s prison in Pereira, one of Colombia's most violent cities. The changes witnessed by the Director of the women’s prison in the participants of Reclusión de Mujeres prison, convinced her of the value of the program, and later she attended a 10 day Vipassana course herself. Read more...

  • Ireland

    In August 2015, three years of patient effort came to fruition when a Vipassana course took place at a low-security prison in Loughan House in Blacklion, County Cavan. The success of the first course paved the way for future courses in Ireland. Meanwhile, group sittings continued at Loughan House, and several of the participating inmates were allowed leave to join a three-day course in Dublin. Read more...