Nature Movies,Videos Help Prisoners Become Less Violent

First Posted: Aug 06, 2016 04:30 AM EDT

It is a well-known fact that nature helps lessen stress in people, which is why even business districts are encouraged to have green spaces for people to go to during breaks. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of being free to see nature -- in fact some people, specifically prisoners, are deprived of this pleasure.

Of course, prisons are not designed for comfort. According to Popular Science, criminals under maximum security in Oregon spend 23 hours a day being locked up in 7 x 12 foot concrete cells, not exactly the most soothing place to be. Their connection with nature is the small patch of "exercise yard" -- which is smaller than a basketball court -- a few times a week where they can catch a glimpse of the sky. This, and their isolation from other humans, mental illness has become a growing problem in prisons -- a problem that extends to the rest of the community once they are released.

As a solution, The Independent UK noted that Snake River Correctional Institution in Salem, Oregon, initiated a "Nature Imagery in Prisons Project" where videos of nature, including scenes of the ocean, forests, rivers, and jungles, and even Earth from space, are played to inmates in the exercise yard. The results were amazing.

While direct contact is most effective, The Daily Mail reported that studies have shown indirect exposure can also provide temporary relief, and it proves true in this instance. Guards also said that they were able to use the films to calm prisoners when they showed signs of aggression or agitation. An officer shared, “The response was amazing because sometimes all it took was 15 to 20 minutes in the nature imagery area to calm them down and get them back on task."

The study indicated that inmates who watched these videos committed 26 percent fewer violent infractions as well. Clinical psychotherapist Dr. Patricia Hasbach, lead researcher shared, " This is equivalent to 13 fewer violent incidents over the year, a substantial reduction in real world conditions, since nearly all such events result in injuries to inmates or officers.”

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