Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Recidivism Among Former Inmates of Folsom Prison:
MAXWELL V. RAINFORTH
CHARLES N. ALEXANDER
KENNETH L. CAVANAUGH
This study examined recidivism rates over a 15-year period among former inmates who learned the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program at a maximum security prison in California. Recidivism outcomes for participants in the TM program were compared with those of matched controls using survival analysis, a general statistical technique for analysis of failure processes. With recidivism defined as rearrest leading to felony conviction, the TM group had a 46.7% recidivism rate during the follow-up period compared to 66.7% for the controls. Survival analysis, using a variety of statistical models and controlling for 22 demographic and criminal background variables, showed that this decrease was statistically significant. Survival analysis based on the Cox regression model indicated that risk of recidivism was reduced by 43.5% (p = .0008). The most appropriate model for the data was found to be a split population Weibull model allowing for immunity to relapse. This model indicated that 58.1% of the TM group versus 73.7% of the control group would eventually re-offend (p = .01). These long-term differences in recidivism outcomes between groups remained significant while covarying for salient factor scores (a predictive index of recidivism risk), age at first arrest, and participation in prison education and group therapy programs. Moreover, the split population survival model indicated that the TM program resulted in permanent rehabilitation, rather than merely delaying the onset of re-offending. A measure of severity of re-offending also was lower for the TM group compared to controls (p = .023). Furthermore, TM subjects who also took group therapy showed a total effect size for reduction of recidivism that was greater than the sum of effect sizes for subjects with TM alone and group therapy alone–a synergistic effect. These results indicate that lasting rehabilitation can be achieved using the TM program. Further, the results indicate the TM program can be used to advantage with certain other rehabilitation programs and may enhance their effectiveness.
KEYWORDS Transcendental Meditation, rehabilitation, recidivism, repeat offenders, maximum security prisoners, survival analysis, long-term follow-up