Just a quick FYI: Rikers Island is NOT a yoga resort. In case you had your doubts.
The story is an interesting one. Son of a hedge fund founder reportedly receives regular allowance of $400-600 weekly. When said allowance is downsized to $100, the 30-year-old Princeton grad allegedly flies into a rage and murders his 70-year-old father with a gunshot to the head. When son is faced with charges and sent to prison he asks, where’s the yoga class?
“He kept asking for yoga,” a jail staffer said of Thomas Gilbert Jr. via the Daily News. “He thought he was in some resort.”
The media has been calling alleged murderer Thomas Gilbert Jr. a rich spoiled brat who spent “a lot of time in the Hamptons, surfing and practicing yoga,” and his yoga request at Rikers Island, one of the toughest jails there is, doesn’t necessarily help us to think of him otherwise (that’s besides the whole allowance thing).
“He really thought he was at this upscale rehab,” another jail staffer said. “It was probably never going through his head that he’s probably never going home.”
Gilbert also repeatedly asked medical staff to call his private doctor to fill a muscle-building steroid prescription, the source said.
Oy. We can imagine a picture of this privileged person stepping into Rikers wondering what time yoga class is and if it’s too late to grab a smoothie at the juice bar.
And yet, is it so weird to ask for yoga in jail? Nope, not exactly. Prison yoga and meditation programs have become increasingly popular and for good reason. They’ve been shown to help in rehabilitating inmates, providing them with the tools to improve stress, impulsivity and mental wellbeing. Not all inmates will be released back into the world, but even for the ones who aren’t, yoga and meditation have been beneficial in keeping the peace (within and without).
“We’re not saying that yoga will replace standard treatment of mental health conditions in prison,” said Oxford University’s Dr. Amy Bilderbeck afetr conducting a prison yoga study in 2013. “But what we do see are indications that this relatively cheap, simple option might have multiple benefits for prisoners’ wellbeing and possibly aid in managing the burden of mental health problems in prisons.”
As for Gilbert, a source told the Daily News, “It almost looked like he was happy being in jail. It was the first time in his life he didn’t have pressure.” Gilbert’s lawyer says he has “a long history of significant mental illness.” Unfortunately, it seems all the yoga in the Hamptons couldn’t prevent him from allegedly killing his father (and no, we don’t expect yoga to be the thing to prevent all crime). But maybe sending him to yoga class in jail is not such a bad idea. We happen to know they DO have yoga classes there, and we’re pretty sure they’re a lot different from your average posh beach vinyasa.