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Dhamma Brothers: East Meets West in the Deep South

Distributed by Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 800-543-FROG (3764)
Produced by Freedom Behind Bars Productions
Directed by Jenny Phillips, Andrew Kukura, and Anne Marie Stein
DVD, color, 76 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Criminal Justice, Rehabilitation, Religious Studies, Sociology

Reviewed by Jessica Schomberg, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Date Entered: 10/29/2008

This film documents a program to teach Vipassana (Insight Meditation) to inmates at Donaldson Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Alabama. The intensity of the program caused participants to refer to themselves as the Dhamma Brothers in recognition of the bonds they had as a result of their shared experience.

While searching for effective ways of rehabilitating inmates, a psychologist at Donaldson discovered the successful use of Vipassana at a prison in India. After providing an introduction to Donaldson and its guards and inmates, the film discusses the impetus behind and the structure of the 10-day course in Vipassana meditation. In addition to explaining how the program worked, the film also discusses societal pressures faced in a predominantly Christian part of the country. The film includes interviews with guards and inmates about the effects of Vipassana education, though provides unfortunately little explanation of Vipassana itself.

DVD extras include short films on meditation and the brain, the legal system, practicing Vipassana, and reflections from the Dhamma Brothers.

Recommended for public or academic libraries collection materials about Buddhist meditation, corrections, and criminal rehabilitation.