CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)—A new yoga program at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center is helping achieve the goal of having its nearly 200 inmates re-enter their communities and never return to a life behind bars.
The yoga classes at the prison begin like any other, with a few moments of breathing and meditation. But for the young women of Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center, it's also a time to reflect.
Instructor Wendy Warren of Project Yoga Richmond first started volunteering at the prison in February 2013, giving the juvenile inmates an escape from the fences and barbed wire that confine them.
"Who you are today is going to change, and it is definitely going to change when you leave here," she told students.
On the yoga mats, the inmates are free.
"To know that there may be an hour of calm and peace and tranquility in every building on this campus is amazing," Warren said.
The correctional center's inmates range in age from 11 to 20. They're serving time for everything from repeated truancy to murder. For the 80 percent with a mental illness or emotional difficulty, the postures help to break down walls.
"You can see an increase in self-confidence and increase in respect," said Ashley Williams, the prison's mentoring program coordinator.
Williams also noted there's been a decrease in behavioral problems since yoga entered the picture. More inmates willingly take their medications and manage anger, preparing them for life on the outside.
"Maybe when they leave this facility they will make better decisions and they won't come back here or to a different facility for doing the same things that got them here in the first place," Warren said.
About 25 female residents have taken these classes on and off since the program started at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center. Since it's helped out so much, the program is expanding for 2014.
The juvenile justice system hopes to eventually offer yoga to all young inmates, both male and female.
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