Mindfulness for Lawyers, Judges, and Prisoners

This page contains an overview of how mindfulness ins being used by legal professionals and prisoners alike. This page contains case studies, links and video clips. As this page contains a high volume of information, use the "Quick Links" on the right of the screen to help you navigate round more quickly, or the "search" box at the top of the screen.


mindfulness for lawyers, lawyer trainingMindfulness in courtrooms

Lawyers and Judges are becoming more interested in using mindfulness to clarify their thought processes, and see facts more clearly. In Jon Kabat-Zinn's book: Coming to our Senses (2008) he cites a great example of the use of mindfulness in courtrooms.

"There was a famous trial in Massachusetts a few years ago. After the jury had been selected, the judge delivered instructions on how to listen to evidence. It was pure mindfulness teaching: moment-to-moment, dispassionate, non-judgmental awareness - listening mind. The lawyer approached the judge later and asked, "Where the hell did you get that?" The judge replied "Oh, I'm taking the mindfulness stress reduction class at the U. Mass, Medical Center, and it seemed we could use a little more mindfulness in our judicial proceedings."

Mindfulness trains people to penetrate the clutter of their minds and surroundings. In a courtroom, legal professionals need to be adept at picking up clues, both verbal and nonverbal, so they can react to what's happening more productively. Mindfulness can help legal professions do this.

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Case Study: Mindfulness Law students at the University of Miami Law School

Mindfulness is also being taught to law students. To be an effective lawyer, it is important to be able to focus on the task at hand. Obsessing about the past or worrying about the future can diminish that focus and dilute effectiveness. Mindfulness helps reduce this "brain chatter" and can help legal professionals focus better on the task in hand.

The University of Miami Law School has introduced law students to mindfulness tools to enhance students' effectiveness at University, their well-being, and their success in the practice of law.

The University of Miami School of Law Schools mindfulness programme is called The mindful law student

In November 2009, The Florida Bar News published an article about this program entitled "Mindfulness program aims to help law students live in the moment":

Mindfulness in Court rooms: Useful Links

"A Conversation with Professor Leonard Riskin about Mindfulness, Dispute Resolution, and Mindfulness Resources for Mediators" (mediate.com)

"A Mindful Law Practice" by Steve Keeva (ABA Journal)

"A Mindful Practice Is A Sustainable Practice" by Stella Rabaut (The Complete Lawyer)

"At Roger Williams University, a 'mindful' class for trial lawyers" (The Providence Journal)

"Awareness and Ethics in Dispute Resolution and Law: Why Mindfulness Tends to Foster Ethical Behavior" by Leonard Riskin (South Texas Law Review) [pdf]

"Awareness in Lawyering: A Primer on Paying Attention" by Leonard Riskin (Affective Assistance of Counsel) [pdf]

"Become a Better Counselor Through Meditation" (New York Law Journal)

"Buddhism and the art of negotiation" (Harvard University Gazette Online)

"Can Saints Negotiate? A Brief Introduction to the Problems of Perfect Ethics in Bargaining" by Scott Peppet (Harvard Negotiation Law Review) [pdf]

"Commentary: Law, Buddhism and Social Change: A Conversation with the 14th Dalai Lama" Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper Series [pdf]

"Contemplative Practices in Law Schools" [pdf] by Leonard L. Riskin (prepared for a workshop at Association of American Law Schools conference)

"Economic Downturn Raising Suicide Risk Factors Among Attorneys" (National Law Journal) [mentions meditation]

"Enhancing the health of medical students: outcomes of an integrated mindfulness and lifestyle program" (Advances in Health Science Education) [pdf]

"Exercise Mind Hygiene On A Daily Basis" [link not working-Article in pdf] by Stephanie West Allen and Jeffrey Schwartz (The Complete Lawyer) 

"Experiencing Grade Anxiety? Mindfulness Offers Clarity" (on page 15) by Scott Rogers (Res Ipsa Loquitur of U of Miami School of Law) [pdf]

"Five Habits for Cross-Cultural Lawyering" by Sue Bryant & Jean Koh Peters [pdf]

"From 'The Art of War' to 'Being Peace': Mindfulness and Community Lawyering in a Neoliberal Age" by A.P. Harris, J. Selbin, and M. Lin (California Law Review)

"How Meditation, Yes Meditation, Can Improve Your Performance And Enhance Your Satisfaction With Work" - Interview of Leonard Riskin (The Complete Lawyer)

"In Court: Lawyers and judges who practice dharma" (Tricycle)

"Lawyers Turn to Meditation to Fight Stress and Improve Performance" by Craig Cormack (Canadian Lawyer)

"Look Inward, Attorney" by James H. Johnston (Legal Times) [pdf]

"Meditating Lawyer No Oxymoron" [pdf] by Matt Masich (Law Week Colorado)

"Meditation for Professionals" by Jennifer Holder (Shambala Times Community News Magazine)

"Meditation great way to ease stress" by John Starzynski (The Lawyers Weekly)

"Mindfulness Meditation: The Cultivation of Awareness, Mediator Neutrality, and the Possibility of Justice" by Evan M. Rock (Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution) [pdf]

"Mindfulness program aims to help law students live in the moment" by Mark Killian (The Florida Bar News)

"Mindfulness, Neuroscience & the Lawyer's Brain" by Scott L. Rogers (Global Negotiation Insight Institute)

"Mindfulness: Foundational Training for Dispute Resolution" by Leonard L. Riskin (Journal of Legal Education) [pdf]

"Move From Being a Mindless Lawyer To a Mindful Lawyer" by Stephanie West Allen (The Complete Lawyer) Article in pdf

"Practicing From the Inside Out" by Steven W. Keeva (Harvard Negotiation Law Review) [pdf]

"President's Message: A call for mindfulness in our profession" by Edward W. McIntyre (Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyers Journal) [pdf]

"Promoting Truthfulness in Negotiation: A Mindful Approach" by Van M. Pounds (Willamette Law Review) [pdf]

"Some Attorneys See Meditation as Relief From Stress of Law Practice" by Thomas Adcock (New York Law Journal) [pdf]

"Stressed Out by Law Practice? Meditation May Do the Trick" (New York Law Journal)

"Teaching lawyers to be in the now" by John Starzynski (The Lawyer's Weekly) Or pdf (begins on page 23)

"The Contemplative Lawyer: On the Potential Contributions of Mindfulness to Law Students, Lawyers, and their Clients" by Leonard L. Riskin (Harvard Negotiation Law Review) [pdf] Or download at SSRN.

"The Mindful Lawyer and the Challenges of Diversity: The Benefits of Mindfulness in Differently Diverse Practice Settings" by Rhonda V. Magee (Center for Contemplative Mind in Society) [pdf]

"The Mindful Lawyer" by Robert Zeglovitch (ABA's GP/Solo)

"The Mindful Lawyer: Mindfulness Meditation and Law Practice" by J. Patton Hyman (The Vermont Bar Journal) [pdf]

"Try a Course in Meditation After Other Law School Classes" by Amanda Bronstad (National Law Journal)

"Who's minding the mediator? Mindfulness in mediation" by Tom Fisher (ADR Bulletin)

"ZEN and the art of lawyering: Legal eagles find meditation a stress solution" (San Francisco Chronicle)

Audio on "Mindfulness for Lawyers" by Zoketsu Norman Fischer

Audios of six talks given by Zoketsu Norman Fischer at lawyers' retreats in 2008 sponsored by the Contemplative Mind in Society (go about halfway down the page to find them)

Charles Halpern on Empathy, Meditation, and the Practice of Law (video from Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy, University at Buffalo Law)

Four audio talks related to lawyers (Dharmaseed.org) Also here

Institute for Mindfulness Studies (specializing in the practice of law)

Legal Ease: Mindfulness in the Practice of Law (Shambala SunSpace blog)

Leonard Riskin speaking on  "Awareness in Dispute Resolution and Law" (The Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution at UNLV Boyd School of Law)

Links to overviews of several talks on contemplative practices and programs given at past conferences of Association of American Law Schools

Meditation goes to work" by H.J. Cummins (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Notes from a presentation by Thomas Fisher: "Bringing Peace into the Room: The Mindful Mediator" [pdf]

The Centre for Mindfulness and Justice The Center for Mindfulness & Justice provides non-sectarian mindfulness instruction, keynote presentations, and organizational consulting and training for criminal justice professionals and employees in all arenas.

The Law Program of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

The Meditation Guide for Successful Lawyers

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Mindfulness in Courtrooms: video clips

Featured video: Neuroscience and Mindfulness, Neurons and Thoughts: A Metaphor

Extract from "Mindfulness and Neuroscience: Enhancing Stress Reduction and Lawyer Effectiveness"

Video of Scott Rogers guides a law student through a mindfulness exercise

Video 1 of Professor Leonard Riskin talking about the value of mindfulness meditation for lawyers   

Video 2 of Leonard Riskin talking about the value of mindfulness meditation for lawyers

Scott Rogers on mindfulness based methods lawyers can use to become present and connected March 2009 (part 1) (parts 2- 5 can be accessed via You Tube)

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Mindfulness in prisons

mindfulness for prisoners, mindfulness in prisonsAt HMP Brixton in the UK a "Mind/Body workout group" was set up to teach mindfulness to inmates.   

The group offers 'take away' practices for men to cultivate their own daily, cell-based mindfulness practice. Daily meditations are also broadcast each lunchtime via the prison radio station.

Similar programmes and variations on this theme are being run in prisons throughout the world.

Evaluation assessments often demonstrate highly significant pre- to post-course including reducing hostility, improving self-esteem, and reducing mood disturbance.


Heart mountain mindful prisoners trainingHeart mountain Project

The Heart Mountain Project (HMP) provides mindfulness classes free of charge at men's, women's and juvenile correctional facilities. They currently teach mindfulness in Santa Fe Minimum security prison, Grants Womens Prison, Santa Rosa's Mens prison and Grants Mens prison.  They have introduced meditation pods into a number of prisons.

Mindfulnet asked HMP's Executive Director, Doug Booth: 

What were the specific issues, problems or behaviours you hoped the project would address?

"Addictions and addictive behavior, violence, the predatory behavior often found in prison. Alienation, loneliness, hopelessness, among others."

How do you teach mindfulness in prisons?

HMP have produced an inmate's meditation manual, "Doing Your Time with Peace of Mind: A Meditation Manual for Prisoners."  This is published in English and Spanish and distributed free of charge to prisoners nationwide. Over 6,500 inmates have received their manuals to date, including many in solitary confinement and those awaiting execution on death row.

What barriers were faced, and how were they overcome?

" The challenges from the prison administration were our toughest challenges. Having allies on the staff was a great help"

What were the outcomes?

"Many inmates who have been through our programs are out of prison and drug/alcohol free and doing very well."

The programmes have been well received by Prison staff as well: 

"To Whom It May Concern:

It is my pleasure to provide a letter that expresses our support of our Meditation/Stress Reduction program. Since its implementation, we have experienced many positive things… that include: A reduction in misconduct reports and activity; a calmer atmosphere for both staff and inmates (both noise level and electronic interference); a cleaner, more sanitized living environment; [and] improved communications among staff and inmates… The program has been a voluntary program that has already created a waiting list since its implementation that indicates that inmates are seeking a more passive atmosphere during their individual incarceration time."

Carl ToersBijns, Deputy Warden, Western New Mexico Correctional Facility

See "An Evaluation of Mindfulness-Based Meditation Programs in New Mexico Prison Facilities" below 


visit mindfulness website 

Upaya in Action : Prison Outreach Project

Upaya in Action seeks to how to help prison residents create changes in their behavior that are sustainable upon release, that promote a positive lifestyle, and decrease the likelihood of return to addiction or prison.  They argue that without tools for changing their lives, it is unrealistic to expect that prison inmates, after years of incarceration will behave any differently when released than they did when first imprisoned.

They offer mindfulness practices as an effective way to help prison residents deal with their feelings and develop "emotional intelligence" and self-regulation. Through these practices prison residents learn how to examine and eventually transform the unhealthy thought and behavioral habit patterns that have governed their lives. Out of these practices comes the ability to effectively manage the stress of prison chaos, the separation from family, and the anger that attends incarceration.

Current Prison Classes include Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility and  Penitentiary of New Mexico


visit mindfulness website 



Mindfulness in Prisons: Useful Links

An evaluation of Mindfulness based meditation programmes in New Mexico Prisons Facilities This research evaluates the effects that mindfulness-based meditation programs are having on the lives of participants. These programs are designed to provide inmates with a tool to handle some of the difficult emotional states common to the prison experience.

MBCT applications in correctional settings by Neva Hagedorn

MBSR in Massachusetts Prisons  Mindfulness-based stress-reduction courses were offered in drug units in six Massachusetts Department of Corrections prisons. A total of 1,350 inmates completed the 113 courses. Evaluation assessments were held before and after each course, and highly significant pre- to post-course improvements were found on widely accepted self-report measures of hostility, self-esteem, and mood disturbance.

Programmes in Correctional settings: Innovative State and Local programmes

Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. June 1998 report See page 64 for details of a mindfulness programme run for over 100 inmates.

The freedom project

Excellent website giving examples of work in prisons. Comments from inmates include: "If I had had this training earlier in life, I'd still be married and probably not be an offender."  

Upaya Institutes Prison Outreach Project  The Prison Outreach project helps prison residents create changes in their behaviour that are sustainable upon release, that promote a positive lifestyle, and decrease the likelihood of return to addiction or prison.

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Experiences of prisoners practicing mindfulness:

The Prison Dharma network works with prisoners and has a great range of articles, including prisoners writing about their experiences of using mindfulness. Here is a selection of prisoners experiences:

Ex Prisoner Douglas Ray talks about his experiences of being mindful in prisons

Prisoner Michael Kelly Roberts talks about his reprieve from death row

Prisoner Ricky Jones talks about taking things "one moment at a time"

Prisoner Ron Barnes talks about the problems of practicing mindfulness in prison

Prisoner Tommy Morris talks about how he uses meditation to change his reaction to anger

Prisoner Tommy Morris talks about mindfulness

Prisoner Tommy Morris talks about using mindfulness to deal with painful memories


Experiences of teaching mindfulness in prisons:

Diana Lion talks about her experience of teaching mindfulness in prisons

Jeanie Kerins talks about her experience of teaching mindfulness in prisons

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Mindfulness in Prisons: video clips

Featured Video: Isha Judd brings Consciousness to Prisoners.

On the 17th of October 2007, Isha Judd was invited by the directors of the Reclusorio del Oriente high security prison in Mexico City to teach the her System to more than 950 inmates.

Fleet Maull talks about Prison Dharma

Fleet Maull: founder of The Peacemaker Institute and Prison Dharma Network Leader of non-violence retreats in Auschwitz and American prisons, Fleet shows that peace doesn't mean avoiding society's shadow side.

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