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TESP - an Alternative Sentencing Program
that Utilized the Transcendental Stress Managementģ
 Program for Offender Rehabilitation

Seventh TESP Graduation, September 1, 2004

Speeches by Dr John Sterling and
Mr. David Magill


 

 



John Sterling, Ph.D., TESP Director;
Research Psychologist

 

Address by Dr John Sterling

Distinguished graduates and proud families and friends.  You should be very proud of the gentlemen who have completed the course here and my job also is to give a welcome to you on behalf of the Board of Directors, all of whom are here.  The secret, as you probably understand, of a successful Board of Directors, is to hire people who are smarter than you are and let them do what needs to be done to accomplish the task at hand.  And thatís what our Board has done.

Eight years ago, I had the privilege of being the fly on the wall when Farrokh and Judge Mason were discussing the Transcendental Meditation program and its use in corrections.  And I have to acknowledge that it wasnít because Farrokh was a pupil of the great Master of the Vedic Tradition of India that Judge Mason decided to go ahead with his program.  He had other reasons.  And those reasons were based on science.

The Transcendental Meditation Program as all of you know has been the subject of a very significant amount of research over the past 30 years now in many different areas - not just in rehabilitation but in fields of physiology.  Itís very well known now what happens to the body when people practice Transcendental Meditation. Tonight we are going to see a tape on the effects of TM on blood pressure.  The psychological effects of TM are also well known.

I think what interested Judge Mason more than anything else was the project done in Walpole and in Californiaís Folsom and San Quentin Prisons.  The Walpole project was run by our own Bob Ferguson who is a member of the TESP  Board of Directors.  At the Californian  Folsom and San Quentin prisons, those projects showed significant reduction in recidivism.  You probably are aware that of the people who go to state prisons, about 63% return, or at least are re-arrested, within three years of their release. With the practice of TM we found 40-50% reduction in that.   So that obviously is of interest to judges. 

[CNN tape on TM and high blood pressure is played.]

When I was in graduate school working on my degree I actually spent my summers earning money working for the State Board of Probation Parole here in Missouri.  And what I was doing was evaluation of a program that had been developed for the people on probation and parole.  And I spent two whole summers working on this program and basically we found, unfortunately, the program did not have an effect on the people that were involved with it.  It was really unfortunate.  I fast forward many years later when I ran into Farrokh here.  He had a presentation in St. Louis and it really peaked my interest because I had a special place in my heart for that subject and I felt like this was really an opportunity to maybe have a program that truly did make a difference.  So we are trying to document that difference and thatís why I have got a little bit of information for you tonight. 

Just to give a brief background on this, in terms of the overview, the goal of our program is really to impact behavior, hopefully resulting in a reduction of recidivism. But one of the key precursors of behavior is actual psychological health. In particular, there are a couple of areas that have been found to be pretty highly connected with getting in trouble with the law and that is, behaviors like impulsivity, hostility and aggression.  So I am going to present some findings on some testing that we have done along these lines.

So all the participants in the TESP program complete a battery of psychological tests and they cover impulsivity and aggression and feelings of control.  That is how much control you feel like that you have over your life and your environment.  And we administer this battery twice -  prior to initiation of the program and then again following completion of the program.  Then we compare the results of this pre-test to see if we found an improvement.  And we actually had done some research previously on an initial 45 participants in a completed program and, as expected, we found a significant improvement amongst the participants on all the tests that we used. Everything we looked at, except one measure, was significant.  So it was pretty dramatic in terms of the impact.

And then for this group we have some additional ones.  We have got 23 participants since then that have gone through, and I will show you some test scores here.  By the way, a low score is the preferred score and I didnít do any significance testing.  I wonít get into this statistical mumbo jumbo.  Basically when you have a sample size that is this small itís just not appropriate to do statistic response but we will do them again once we have enough participants in the program.  I just want to show you there are three tests I am going to report on.  One is on impulsivity.  You can see here the pre-tests and post-tests.  You can see the improvement we have seen in the participants.

Go to the next one, which is the aggressiveness test results.  This one is here shows a little bit more dramatic improvement.  Again, when you read the questionnaires the items that are found here deal with people that you know.  They will have statements on there like ďmy friends think that I am a hot head or I lose my temper easilyĒ-  things like that.  So you can see in those kinds of statements we have seen pretty dramatic improvement.

Go to the last one and that is feelings of control.  And that is again how much you feel like you have control over the events of your life. 

Go ahead click forward.  And so, consistently in the earlier findings, we have had improved scores observed in all three tests.  Impulsiveness, aggressiveness and feelings of control.  Now I said we didnít do significance testing because it is not appropriate, but we will do them when we get enough additional participants and then some next steps. 

On future evaluations of the program we can improve on it by including a control group - something we havenít done today because we donít like the idea of having somebody assigned to the program but not giving them treatment.  So what we are thinking of doing is just randomly assigning individuals based on the last digits of their social security number so we donít have to know the whole number but just the last digits.

The next slide.  What we will do is bring a group together, randomly assign them into two groups, initiate half of them in the TESP program and everybody will get tested.  Have them complete the tests.  Test both groups again.  And then, at the end, we would initiate the second group. And after they complete it we would follow up testing on that one too.  Of course the plan is long term to also look at the behavioral measures because thatís what ultimately we are trying to impact. 

Right now we feel very good in terms of the psychological evaluations.   We are feeling pretty confident about it and I think if you ask the participants in the program, the graduates tonight, about themselves subjectively, I think they will most likely agree with some of the data that we have seen here in terms of their own feelings of control over their lives, reduced feelings of aggression or hostility and less tendency to be impulsive in their actions themselves.  I know for myself personally thatís one of the biggest impacts it had on my life too. 

Any questions?"

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David Magill, TESP Director;
Vice-President, Engineering, LTDS

 

Overview by TESP Director, David Magill
 

Honorable Judges,  Probation Officers, Reverend Conway, esteemed Colleagues, Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen:

"It is an honor for me, on behalf of the Board of Directors, to welcome you to the Seventh Graduation ceremony of The Enlightened Sentencing Project. As we, most notably Farrokh and Ruffina, go through the hard work of preparing and producing these courses, we could be excused for wondering -- is all this work that Farrokh, Ruffina, and the course participants are doing, really worth it? Will they stick with it? But somehow you all and Farrokh always pull it together. And let's be honest here -- some of you tested Farrokh from time to time. That's natural. He tells you how much this TM will help you out -- and you wonder, subconsciously maybe, well if this TM is so great we'll just see how old Farrokh responds to this. Yeah. But, somehow, he guides you through it. Sometimes it's as frustrating for him as herding cats. But, you've all gotten beyond all that.  So now,  we can all come together and celebrate your achievements. Listening to the course completion essays Farrokh has shared with me earlier, I'm just so proud of what you've all accomplished.

Why on earth does it work so well--time and time again. It's not like this is the first time we've done this--some kind of flash in the pan. No.  About 200 have gone through the program now and almost all who have started have also finished. What makes it work? How do we know it will keep working? I'll let you in on a little secret. Promise not to tell? It's so simple which is why it so hard to believe. The nature of the mind is to seek greater happiness, more fulfillment.  Greater happiness, more fulfillment, it turns out, can be infused in the mind by the simple technique of TM where the mind settles down, enjoying more and more charming experience. Through that simple experience, simplest form of awareness we say, the body also settles down to a state of deep rest, very relaxed. That deep rest and simplest form of awareness allows the release of the accumulated strain and tensions that you've accumulated over so many years of frustration and hard living. That stress and strain made it more likely for you to fly off the handle at what seemed the slightest provocation. When that stress is gone, or shall we say, some good part of it is gone, you naturally gain a wide angle vision. More opportunities are seen when previously you would have just felt hopeless and thought this was a good excuse for a drink or some drugs.

You may think this is just something that is in St. Louis. Not so. Millions of people around the world practice TM. More than 600 scientific studies have been done to determine the effects on mind, body, and behavior. They confirm the secret I just told you. That's how we know it will keep working. It's science -- carefully controlled, repeatable experiments that gradually flesh out the true nature of a thing. Rather than go through a description of these experiments -- and I might add that Judge Mason has studied this research very thoroughly and that is the reason he was willing to give this program a try--I'd like to share a video with you. It describes the ongoing research on TM and hypertension in African-American communities around the US. The National Institutes of Health have been funding this research for several years now."

 

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