of us live our entire lives without giving prison life a second
thought. Many have never even known anyone serving a sentence.
For certain segments of the US population, however, prison is
too much a reality, with relatives, neighbors, and friends more
likely to be incarcerated than away at school. Prison populations
in the US are heavily drawn from black, Hispanic, and other minority
communities. Those deeply concerned with justice are troubled
by the fact that although five times more whites than blacks use
drugs, fully two thirds of all those jailed for drugs are black.
Another minority with a growing prison representation is Asian,
particularly young Indochinese refugees. There are, for example,
more than 2000 Khmer (Cambodians) currently in prisons around
the bitter, angry, depressing atmosphere of prison, Buddhism can
offer much needed hope and give a positive structure to life.
The moral discipline of Buddhism's Five Precepts-not to kill,
not to steal, not to commit sexual misconduct, not to lie, and
not to use intoxicants, alcohol, or drugs-might have kept them
out of trouble in the first place....
Relief Mission has been involved with Buddhist groups in prisons
for several years. These groups are not heavily Asian. They were
started by US born prisoners....
prison system is sometimes hostile to Buddhists (or followers
of any faith other than Christianity). Buddhist inmates often
must overcome formidable barriers to obtain Dhamma books or to
have an opportunity to practice meditation with qualified teachers
from the outside. Fortunately, a few Christian chaplains have
shown themselves to be fairly tolerant and sometimes even supportive
of our friends' efforts....
the full report...