Yoga in jail could help rehabilitate inmates

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A unique idea at a local jail could be leading inmates to a better life.

People practice yoga in their daily lives but officials are hoping it can actually help rehabilitate offenders.

For women incarcerated life isn’t easy in jail or on the outside.

For dozens of women taking part in a new program called Pathways, that could be changing.

“I’m able to find inner peace being here,” said Diamond Bright.

It’s not something you expect to hear from a locked up mother of five.

“My judge gave me a 90 [day] sentence here instead of prison so it was like a second chance to start over.”

With a fresh start she is finding a new perspective. “I have to take it one step at a time.”

In the Jackson Pike jail she’s taking it one breath at a time.

Yoga is offered as part of the Pathways program meant to rehabilitate women behind bars.

“I like to say it’s a place where we can meet people on the mat where they are, and hope to reach them in ways they didn’t know they could be reached,” said instructor Julie Wilkes.

She’s not only an instructor, but a life coach. “This teaches us to find that strength to hold on when it’s hard.”

A hard life is the only thing Jade Thompson knows. “I have struggled with drug addiction since I was 12 years old. I have never lived any other way.”

She said this class is helping her with one of her biggest struggles – focusing. “Yoga is something that is stable it is just very motivational.”

Motivation happens to be the key to this programs success. It’s why Tresalyn Butler, a deputy sheriff, pitched the idea to the jail, and works with the women side by side during every class.

“Research shows that it helps to lower aggression with inmates. It gives them a de-escalation skill that way they have a way to cope in the midst of chaos.”

As of right now, officers at the jail say it’s working.

“We’ve only had two disciplinary reports out of the Pathways program for the last year,” said Captain Carl Towbridge.

It’s a major improvement that’s bringing peace to a place where it can be hard to find.

He said if someone were to get in trouble in the jail their privileges to be a part of the program would be revoked. 

For inmates like Bright, it’s putting life into perspective.

“I knew I was meant to be here these 90 days to sit down. There is a lot of overdoses and I knew a lot of them so it could have been me,” said Bright.

Wilkes is proud of the women who have come through the program and hopeful it will help others for years to come.

“I believe that everybody who is incarcerated, they are just one bad decision from a good day. All they need is a little bit of hope and people who believe in them and show them something different and I believe that’s really powerful.”

In the future, as the program gets older, officials plan to track recidivism rates, how many people complete the program and how they do after going home.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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