“... Compelling story of an astonishing treatment program with prison inmates that, against all odds, actually worked.”
– Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian
Watchtower Donaldson Correctional Facility

The story of the Dhamma Brothers of Donaldson Correctional Facility continues to unfold today as the Vipassana program establishes deep roots and manifests a gradual change from within the prison walls. Four years after the shutdown of the program at Donaldson, Dr. Ron Cavanaugh brought it back in 2006.

Warden Hetzel has observed the benefits to both the Dhamma Brothers, whose numbers are growing, as well as to the other prisoners and the staff. Impressed by this, the Warden requested that the Vipassana program be made available to the entire prison population. To meet this request, the Vipassana program is being offered more frequently and to larger groups by the Vipassana Prison Trust.

A Dhamma Brothers cellblock is soon going to be established. Corrections officers have been offered paid leave and transportation to take a Vipassana program. Eight corrections officers have already decided to take the program.

Academic research findings support behavioral observations that show the positive influence of the Vipassana program. Preliminary findings from pre- and post-tests and 1 year follow up measures administered to both Vipassana and matched control participants include the following findings for the Vipassana participants;

•  Increase in mindfulness & emotional intelligence

•  Improved physiological & psychological well-being

•  Decrease in anger and distress

•  A 20% reduction in institutional infractions & segregation time


All of this signifies a shift within the prison culture from one of violence and despair toward one of hope and positive change.

Edward Johnson, Dhamma Brother
“On the third day of meditation, I began to feel calm.
And then and there, for the first time in my life, I was really ready to deal with me. A lot of guys was afraid to deal with
Big Ed. And now I was ready to take him on, right there on that meditation mat.”
– Edward Johnson, Dhamma Brother



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March 23, 2010 — Duke University Screening

Panel discussion with:
Jenny Phillips, Producer/Director/Writer of The Dhamma Brothers,
Dr. Ron Cavanaugh, the Director of Treatment for the Alabama DOC,
and Warden Gary Hetzel of Donaldson Prison.