Meditation Behind Bars

The rabble podcast network offers an alternative take on politics, entertainment, society, stories, community and life in general. All opinions belong to the podcaster; however, podcasters are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new podcasters -- contact us for details.

If it is one thing that people living in prison have a lot of, it is time. And some prisoners are using that time to meditate. They are finding it an effective way to deal, not only with themselves, but also with the harsh and dehumanizing environment of the prison.

Sister Elaine MacInnes, is an 84-year-old Catholic nun and a Zen master, who has taught prisoners meditation for more than 20 years. She spent many years studying Zen in Japan and has worked with prisoners in the Philippines and England (with the Phoenix Prison Trust).

Here in Canada, Sister Elaine founded the Toronto-based organization Freeing the Human Spirit that teaches yoga and meditation to prisoners. 

She received the Order of Canada in 2001 and was featured A 2005 Vision TV documentary, The Fires That Burn: The Life and Work of Sister Elaine MacInnes.

Stark Raven spoke to Sister Elaine about her experiences teaching meditation to prisoners and what she has learned from her work in prisons.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.