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




Hon. Judge David C. Mason,
Founding Judge of The Enlightened Sentencing Project
22md Judicial Circuit Court, St Louis, Missouri


What Judges Said

Hon. David C. Mason

“In 1996 I initiated the use of Transcendental Stress Management as a condition of probation.  At that time no other Missouri judge had done this.  I spent another year using TSM in probation before another judge joined me.  Now five judges have made TSM a regular part of their probation conditions.  Two successive Chief Justices of our state Supreme Court have participated in the graduation ceremony for TSM probationer-trainees and strongly expressed their support for using TSM to help criminal offenders avoid re-offending. 

While there are many scientific studies to support the use of TSM in criminal rehabilitation, I have the benefit of seeing its effects on offenders I have placed on probation.  They are demonstrating greater self-esteem and self-control.  Their mothers, girlfriends and wives speak in glowing terms of the “new” man in their lives. ...One offender actually advised another to plead guilty only if assigned to my court so that he might get into the Transcendental Stress Management program.  In any event, initial reports are better than expected and confirm all the previous studies.” 



Hon. Judge Henry E. Autrey
United States District Judge, Eastern District of Missouri


Hon. Judge Henry E Autrey

“When I was a Judge on the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri, I used Transcendental Meditation as a condition of probation for over a year and the results were astounding. I saw my probationers who participated in the TESP program grow and develop in ways I had rarely seen in other probationers. They had a positive social attitude. They secured employment. They exhibited responsibility by maintaining positive probation reports.  And, as curious as it may sound, they had an emotionally healthy appearance.  By this I mean they did not appear to be stressed, anxious, nervous, or restless. These are considerable indicia of a responsible person with their life under control, as opposed to life controlling them. In short they took responsibility for their lives. As I understand the purpose of probation, such a result is exactly what we, in the criminal justice system seek to achieve.

…When I began assignment of TSM as a condition of probation my hypothesis was quite simple ---if the conventional conditions of probation do not have long lasting effects, why not try something different that can help change a person from within?

My belief, my responsibility as a jurist, is to develop, effectuate, initiate and deliver alternatives to incarceration, which have long lasting effect. So it is as a member of the Bench. I have a duty to treat, if you will, those individuals who have pleaded guilty, or been found guilty, with the medication and therapy available which will grant them the ability and desire to cease to be a detriment to themselves and society.  Therefore, why not use the practice of Transcendental Stress Management to treat, from within, the malady for which they appeared before me? I would have been greatly remiss in my treatment plan if I neglected to use every tool that was available in my arsenal of justice system weapons.” 

July 22, 2005



Read Judge Autrey's address to a group of Federal Probation and Parole Officers in St Louis in October 2006 here.

Here are highlights from his talk:

TESP - an Effective Sentencing Tool for Judges
High Recidivism among Probationers
Recidivism Statistics on TESP Participants
Significantly Lower Recidivism Rate
Treating What’s Inside
Obviating Negative Personality Traits with TSM
Personal Benefits of Practicing the TSM Program
Incredible Experiences
TSM’s Effect on the Lives and Work of Probation and Parole Officers
Clearer Thinking and More Energy
More Effective Supervision of Clients
Thinking "Outside the Box”

Read more of his address  here.




Hon. Judge Lisa VanAmburg
Judicial Circuit Court, St Louis, Missouri


Hon. Judge Lisa VanAmburg

"The first year that I was assigned to criminal court in 2003, time and again I stared into the face of an offender pleading guilty to a drug or alcohol-related offense, domestic abuse, or answering to a charge of violation of a condition of probation.   The faces all showed defeat, humiliation, shame, anger and frustration with the lives they were living and the predicament they had got themselves into. Most of these offenders are people extremely limited in their ability to cope with life’s stresses.  They self-medicate with illegal drugs and alcohol. They seemed compelled, even in the face of imprisonment, to continue their illegal drug use; assault their families, drive while intoxicated or to engage in other illegal conduct. I struggled to understand why and how it was they appeared to lack control over their lives.

I tried a number of sentencing alternatives, regarding prison as a last resort.  Slowly, options other than prison began to diminish. The legislature of the State of Missouri, at the conclusion of the last budget year, slashed funding for community based drug treatment and other services intended to keep non-violent offenders out of prison.   We judges are now left with few choices, either imprisonment or probation with little or no likelihood of success.

This predicament led me to seek more information about The Enlightened Sentencing Project.  Perhaps the “western” ideas of how best to deal with these offenders do not work as well as we assumed.  Perhaps it is time to try a new approach, one that does not require a great expenditure of public or private funds and one that has demonstrated hope for success.  The TESP program offers this hope.  It teaches important stress management and coping skills while at the same time giving offenders confidence in their ability to survive whatever life dishes out, without having to resort to substance abuse.

I personally have undergone the Transcendental Stress Management meditation training and feel that it has been helpful in lowering my blood pressure, which tends to rise to unhealthy levels during stressful times.   I have slowly come to understand why the results I see with offenders whom I have sent through the program are so promising.  The TESP trainers do not talk to the offenders about drugs and alcohol.  Nobody tests their urine or lectures about bad behavior, failure, bad decisions or dysfunction. Those topics are simply not in the curriculum.    Instead, the offender is invited into a tranquil group surrounding and taught a very simple stress management technique, meditation, which is fast gaining acceptance in our western culture as an effective tool for combating the debilitating effect of modern day stress on our lives.  The offenders report in their final essays their own surprise and delight at the positive changes they have been able to make in their lives due to their calmer demeanors and better health, which they attribute to regular meditative practices. 

I would like to learn more about what happens after they leave the supervision of the courts.  I am presently encouraging the collection of academically sound data as a means of measuring the progress of offenders who go through the TESP program.  I am hopeful that with sound metrics, we will be able to establish objective measures of success and open new doors in the field of criminal rehabilitation.  I strongly recommend that other judges, prosecutors, public and private defenders give this program a chance.  I am grateful to the TESP program for the opportunities it presents to these offenders and to the court for a viable and cost effective alternative to prison.”    

July 15, 2005 



The late Hon. Judge Thomas G. Russell
(7th Judicial Circuit of the State of Illinois)

Hon. Judge Thomas G. Russell

"Earlier this year we were able to bring TESP to a segment of our probationers in Jersey County, Illinois.  All seven of the probationers who started the program completed it successfully and will be joining some 40 St Louis probationers at their graduation ceremony on August 29th, 2005.  From the course completion essays of the Jersey County group I have received comments like the following:

"The Transcendental Stress Management program has given me a better outlook on life and how you are supposed to handle your everyday stress.  I have the want and drive to get a better job, to provide for my family.” 

"I think the program can work for everyone... I would like to thank the teachers of the TESP program for bringing this simple program that is so powerful and pure into my life.” 

"...not long after I started the TESP program my girlfriend said that I had been nicer to her and to everyone I am around.” 

"This program is the best thing the courthouse could have done for me.  I'm more relaxed.  I'm not as worried about how I'm going to pay my bills.” 

"I sleep so much better at night and I don't get too many headaches as I used to.” 

"Ever since I started the program I don't get mad over little stuff and I'm so much calmer than I've ever been.” 

I see consciousness-based therapy, such as the Transcendental Stress Management program, as on the cutting edge of therapies for prisoners and probationer in the criminal justice system.  From my own experience as a meditator, I know that meditation has the effect of calming the mind, reducing stress and creating a more orderly life.  While other remedies tend to treat symptoms, producing only short-term benefits, the practice of the Transcendental Stress Management meditation has been proven, over a relatively short period of time, to remove in individual defendants the impulse to violate the rights of others over the long term.  It is better than any "miracle drug" could be in that there are no adverse side effects and the benefits only increase with continued conscientious application.  I am persuaded that the practice of the TSM program may be the cutting edge therapy of the 21st century.  It has profound potential for restoring criminal defendants in the justice system to productive lives as honest citizens and employees, supportive partners, nurturing parents and happier individuals.” 

August 26, 2005



Hon. Judge Thomas Russell, Circuit Judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit of the State of Illinois (Retired), also made the following remarks at his courthouse in Jerseyville, Illinois, when a presentation was made by TESP on the stress management program offered by TESP for the rehabilitation of offenders. 

"...the success of transcendental meditation as a therapeutic tool of the criminal justice system is not merely anecdotal.  Studies have been conducted in maximum security prisons in the US and in other countries around the world which demonstrate the almost miraculous effectiveness of this technique.  The evidence is that this technique of meditation, consistently and conscientiously practiced, can transform lives permanently for the better.

I became interested in the Project about 18 months ago when a friend shared with me an inspiring video of a recent graduation ceremony of The Enlightened Sentencing Project in St Louis.  Immediately I got in touch with the Director, Farrokh Anklesaria, was invited to his home for dinner with several judges from the St Louis Circuit court.  I was strongly impressed by the information Farrokh shared with me including the studies which strongly support its incredible effectiveness.  I was also impressed that certain Justices of the Supreme Court of Missouri have endorsed the Project without reservation. 

The premise of the program's effectiveness is that consciousness is unitary and infinite; as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of TM has said: "consciousness is the field of all possibilities.
  Maharishi has attempted to address almost every field of human endeavor in government, politics, economics, science and the arts from this standpoint for a period of over 40 years.  His premise is now being vindicated by quantum physics which confirms the inter-dependence of all life; that all matter and life is embraced in, and the manifestation of, one gigantic energy field.  Scientists are now agreeing that how we look at something, the consciousness we bring to it, affects what we see.  That literally, at the subatomic level, when a butterfly flutters its wings in Jerseyville it can contribute to the formation of a typhoon in the Indian Ocean. 

To me these are compelling reasons for considering an alternative therapeutic approach which may seem innovative and cutting edge, but at the same time based on sound scientific studies over many years.” 

Judge Russell  also referred to the excellent and compelling testimonials given by the probationers at the Project's graduation ceremonies.  He said:  "They [these testimonials] were so inspiring that I felt it would be neglectful of me in my role as presiding judge not to give this program serious consideration for implementation in Jersey County.

April 22, 2004














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The Enlightened Sentencing Project was a 501 (c) 3 organization and was not affiliated with the national Transcendental Meditation organization.