CATEGORY/THEME: Development and Testing of Interventions
Introduction: The rate of criminal offending has been increasing and become a significant problem for society. Criminal offenders are found with various mental and behavioral problems (e.g., impulsiveness and anti-social personality). Moreover, the environment in prison could even induce some other emotional problems. Mindfulness-based training has been found with promising effect for various populations, including incarcerated people, in reducing anxiety and depression (Samuelson, Carmody, Kabat-Zinn, & Bratt, 2007). Moreover, this self-help training is easy to manipulate and generalize efficiently among the incarcerated population. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of mindfulness training on incarcerated males with and without the guidance of instructor.
Method: Participants (age 18- 66) were randomized to a mindfulness training group guided by instructor (guided group, n = 25) and a mindfulness training group without instructor (unguided group, n = 22). In the eight sections of the 4-day training, participants in the guided group practiced mindfulness training led by a mindfulness instructor, and the unguided group practiced mindfulness following the audio instruction. The following mental traits were measured at pre- and post-intervention: depression, anxiety, automatic thoughts, self-kindness, common humanity, mindfulness, self-judgment, feeling of isolation and coping style. Additionally, their daily practice, as well as emotion, stress and sleep were recorded for 30 days after training.
Results: Both types of mindfulness training had significantly reduced the participants’ neuroticism (F(2,42) = 8.80, p < 0.01, η² = 0.30) , feeling of isolation (F(2, 42) = 2.50, p < 0.05, η² = 0.11) and negative coping style (F(2, 42) = 2.74, p < 0.05, η² = 0.12), and increased the self-kindness (F(2, 42) = 2.69, p < 0.05, η² = 0.11) and trait mindfulness (F(2, 42) = 2.57, p < 0.05, η² = 0.11) as well. Comparing with the unguided group, there was a larger reduction of anxiety (t(42) = -2.29, p < 0.05, d = -0.69) and a larger increase of common humanity (t(44) = 2.32, p < 0.05, d = 0.23) for guided group.
Mindfulness training, even only with audio guidance, could be an effective program generalized among incarcerated sample. In addition, training guided by instructors may have more benefit for those with higher emotional problems.