With the increase in crime all over the world, the prisons/correctional facilities are overburdened with prisoners, many of which harbor negative emotions and thoughts. Therapeutic approaches to laughter such as Laughter Wellness and Laughter Yoga offer a great way of dissipating these feelings of anger and frustration in a positive way, vocalizing without having to verbalize anything. They are easy to implement and can very substantially improve the physical, mental and emotional wellness of prisoners and wardens alike.

How Laughter Can Help Prisoners

  • oldEmotional release; reduces anger and violence. Prisoners often experience extreme negative emotions of anger, fear, worry and loneliness. This leads to a troubled state of mind that can easily break into rage and violent forms of release. Therapeutic laughter is an excellent natural way to provide violent-free emotional release through catharsis. It also provides new ways to deal with these strong emotions in a healthy, non-violent and non-confrontational way.
  • Stress reduction. Prisoners experience high stress levels, especially in overcrowded facilities, with resulting lack of privacy. Therapeutic laughter reduces stress levels quickly and naturally, and provides new ways of dealing with stress, which can lead to long-term stress reduction. By providing a new mental perspective, laughter often converts the perceptions of problems that were seen as huge to minor irritations.
  • Laughter promotes empathy and communication, improves cooperation with authority, reduces disciplinary problems. The regular practice of therapeutic laughter leads to a positive state of mind. In some prisons, a substantial improvement in the overall mood and atmosphere of the establishment has been reported.
  • Improves mood-state, decreases depression and psychological problems. Regular therapeutic laughter sessions can result in an improved state of mind, and an increased willingness to participate in voluntary training, education and work opportunities that are offered.
  • Improves health, reduces health-related costs. Regular therapeutic laughter sessions provide excellent cardio and aerobic exercise, increasing oxygen levels in the bloodstream and to major organs. Physiologically, laughter boosts performance of the immune, digestive and cardiovascular systems. After a few months of regular therapeutic laughter sessions, a reduction in outbreaks of colds and flus, and other illness has been noted.
While all prisoners can benefits from therapeutic laughter sessions, the greatest improvement in the state of mind has been observed among younger prisoners.

How Laughter Can Help Prison Wardens

 Wardens work under a great deal of stress. Unfortunately, the results of stress impact negatively on their work performance: stress reduces the ability to perform, reduces the ability to communicate and empathize, and leads to emotional problems that adversely affect non-work life (stress is often carried home, where it emerges with sometimes tragic negative effects on home and family life).

Laughter is nature’s stress buster, quickly reducing stress levels and providing tools to deal with stress and improve performance under stress. Laughter also provides an easy workout and full oxygenation of the blood and major organs, leaving one ready for peak performance. Most importantly, it builds skills that allow one to perform efficiently in stressful situations. (Read more.)

Improved empathy and communication skills allow better communication with other warders and with inmates. This leads to a less confrontational approach towards inmates. Laughing together can also greatly improve cooperation and empathy between warders of different cultural backgrounds.

A substantial improvement in emotional intelligence skills has been measured in scientific studies after 3 weeks of daily 20-minute therapeutic laughter sessions. These skills are critical to managing and defusing tense situations, and being able to think and respond well under pressure. This is very important for wardens – an emotionally intelligent response to a people crisis can make the difference between a flashpoint situation either defusing or escalating.

In summary therapeutic approaches to laughter such as Laughter Wellness and Laughter Yoga can help prison wardens with:

  • Improved efficiency and work performance.
  • Improved emotional intelligence.
  • Strong team building, a change from individual competitiveness to team cooperation.
  • Improved mood, morale and state of mind.
  • Better able to perform under stress.
  • Decrease in domestic problems.
  • Reduced staff turnover.
  • Improved health and wellness.

How To Lead Therapeutic Laughter Sessions In Jails And Prisons (Video: 41:35 minutes)

From To Description
00:01 11:46 Introduction: Bringing Laughter to Jails and Prisons; Hope House;
Slide Show: images of an Actual Laughter Session in Jail (6:38-10:33).
11:47 14:25 The Boundaries of Volunteering in Prison.
14:26 16:57 Differences between Jail and Prison.
16:58 28:30 How to go about starting a Laughter Club or Session in Jails and Prisons; Maneuvering through Correctional Institutions and their systems; Adapting your Pitch and Laughter Style.
28:31 30:30 Personal Story: Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk.
30:31 41:23 Questions and Wrap Up:

  • How do you deal with the fear.
  • What drew Laura to working in Prisons and Jails?
  • Hope House.
  • What kind of exercises do you do with inmates?
  • Gaining Trust.

For more info on Jane Davis and her phenomenal work in jails and prisons or to contact her visit http://hope-howse.org

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