David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness Based Education and World Peace

The Trauma Prevention Project: Reducing Violence Through Transcendental Meditation

Crime prevention

Demonstrate the effectiveness of an evidence-based meditation technique to reduce violence, substance abuse, incarceration and other symptoms of traumatic stress in Chicago's most afflicted communities.

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Lead Organization

David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness Based Education and World Peace

Chicago, Illinois, United States


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Project Summary

Toxic stress has been identified as a broad causal factor in violence and criminal behavior. Childhood and adolescent traumas contribute to risk factors associated with poor physical and mental health, violent behavior, substance use disorder and dropping out of school. Drug and talk therapy interventions are not the answer for millions of at-risk youth and adults. The need is paramount for an innovative yet evidence-based intervention that can address this epidemic in a practical, accessible, scalable and cost-effective manner.Based on 50 years of research and clinical experience, the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique is that approach. Published findings show reduced stress and improved brain and cognitive functioning along with lowered anxiety, depression, anger, low self-control, ADHD, substance abuse and criminal recidivism.The proposed project will demonstrate on a community-wide scale, the positive impact of the TM technique when incorporated as an effective intervention in schools, detention centers and in communities.

Problem Statement

The urban crime and violence plaguing communities and cities are seemingly intractable problems that poses no ready solution. Criminologists and social scientists have examined the problem of urban crime and violence exhaustively. More and better policing strategies, urban development projects, youth mentoring, job training, anti-poverty programs have all contributed positively to the issue, and yet the problem persists.A new paradigm for understanding the problem and its solution is developing. Toxic stress has been identified as a broad causal factor in violence and criminal behavior. Stress and trauma experienced in childhood and adolescence contribute to risk factors associated with higher levels of violence, including anger, impulsivity, low grades, suspensions and dropping out from school. Poverty, economic privation, social and family dysfunction, negative cultural conditioning, environmental exposure to drug and gang culture – all are contributing factors. Research shows that many violent and criminal behaviors have their origins in the impaired neurophysiology and brain function of the individual.Could addressing this neurophysiological imbalance be a leverage point to effect change on an individual and societal basis? This was a question posed by the University of Chicago Crime Lab in 2015 when it selected the TM program from over 220 applicants for a high-level Randomized Control Trial designed to identify the program’s impact on reducing urban youth violence.

Solution Overview

Research by the University of Chicago Crime Lab's two-year Randomized Control Trial with over 2,000 students in south and west side Chicago Public High Schools, has shown a statistically significant 70% reduction in arrests for serious violent offenses among students trained in the Transcendental Meditation technique, as compared to Controls.On the basis of this finding and an extensive body of published research, we will expand the implementation of this approach to demonstrate a reduction in violent crime, incarceration, domestic abuse and substance abuse in the 12 Chicago communities most afflicted by violence. This demonstration of the efficacy of the TM intervention will establish a model for other communities and cities similarly plagued by violence.The University of Chicago Crime Lab will be engaged as the evaluation partner to continue to monitor the impact of the intervention in these communities, including a cost/benefit analysis to establish the multiples of savings to society for every dollar spent - not counting the toll in human suffering that will be mitigated.DLF will leverage its relationship with Chicago Public Schools, Cook County Jail, Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, Cook County Probation, North Lawndale Restorative Justice Court and community and church organizations to provide the TM intervention to those most at-risk among the 400,000 residents of West Garfield Park, North Lawndale, Englewood, Riverdale, Avalon Park, Austin, West Pullman, East Garfield Park, Roseland, South Shore, Greater Grand Crossing and Woodlawn.

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Project Funders

  • Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation 2016
  • Schwartz Family Foundation 2016 - 2019
  • Steans Family Foundation 2018

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