I have been visiting an inmate in prison who has no one. He seems serious about studying how to live more peacefully. Are there Buddhist organizations that address the spiritual needs of inmates?
There are a number of programs that offer Buddhist meditation practice, study, and chaplaincy to prisoners. These include: the Liberation Prison Project, which has connected some 20,000 prisoners with practice materials and non-prisoner pen pals since 1996; the Prison Mindfulness Institute, which offers prisoners donated books as well as non-sectarian training in mindfulness meditation, emotional intelligence, communication, and conflict resolution; the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation’s True Freedom program, which connects inmates and non-inmates practicing in the Plum Village Tradition; the Rangjung Prison Dharma Project, which makes in-person meditation teachings available to the female population at Rikers Island Correctional Facility; the National Buddhist Prison Sangha, which runs meditation training and a Zen Buddhist correspondence program for prisoners; and more.
We at the Lion’s Roar Foundation regularly send magazines and books to the Los Angeles County penal system, where they are shared among chaplains and interested inmates there, and send free subscriptions to Lion’s Roar to prisoners who write to us requesting them. The book publishers you’ll see in the magazine often send books directly to prisoners when possible.