LIFE-SKILLS & MINDFULNESS

LOS ANGELES COUNTY JAILS

Photograph by  Conci Althouse

Sister Inmate partnered with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Education Based Incarceration Bureau and HealthRIGHT 360 to facilitate the first-ever sound bath meditation at the Los Angeles County Jail for Women, Century Regional Detention Facility. In an environment where silence is nearly impossible to find, an estimated 60 incarcerated women rested in savanasa and entered deep states of relaxation, rejuvenation, and introspection.

The vibrations and sounds from a sound bath provide a powerful way to cultivate a sense of well-being, balance and harmony to the body, and promotes positive energy. “Our hopes are that these women heal, so they never come back to jail. We want them to return home to their families and communities as healthy, self-loving, and transformed women,” says Sister Inmate founder, Carlee Santarelli. The meditation was led by Sound Meditation San Francisco co-founder Guy Douglas (“The Gong Guy”), with sounds from shamanic hang and ocean drums, koshi and tingshe chimes, and Native American flutes. One-on-one counseling was also offered on-site by HealthRIGHT 360 for any participants overwhelmed by the experience.

Photograph by  Stefan Weinberger

Following the sound bath, the female participants sat together in a circle and shared their experience, reporting feelings of peace, heightened awareness, and relaxation of the mind and body.

“It was amazing,” says one female incarcerated. “At first I felt like I was on a journey on a train. I didn’t know where I was going, but then I became relaxed and went to sleep.”

Another female said, “I had thoughts of my loved ones and I together on the beach. I felt butterflies,” while another experienced dreams of new memories she wanted to create once she is released. “It’s like I’ve been given a chance to do life all over again,” she said.

“In the many years that I have been volunteering in LA County jails, this is the first time I’ve seen the women at such a deep level of inner calmness and peace,” says Santarelli. “It brought me to tears, tears of joy.” Santarelli hopes to continue facilitating subsequent sound baths as part of her self care workshops within LA county jails, for the incarcerated women, staff, and volunteers. “It takes a lot of work to make something like this happen in a jail,” she says, “but when you have support like we do from deputies, sergeants, captains, program directors, facilitators, and therapists, transformation and healing is possible.”

Photograph by  Stefan Weinberger