The Brain

Watching Nature Documentaries Makes Prisoners Less Aggressive

A new project is exploring the benefits of showing nature documentaries and videos in the dog-eat-dog world of maximum-security prisons. The findings, presented at a conference by the American Psychological Association on Friday, have already shown some dramatic effects on the mood of the prison and the well-being of prison officers.

“We need nature for our physical and psychological well-being,” clinical psychotherapist Dr Patricia Hasbach, the lead researcher, said in a statement. “Although direct contact with real nature is most effective, studies have shown that even indirect nature exposure can provide temporary relief from psychological stress in daily life.”

The project looked at 48 inmates in a cellblock at the Snake River Correctional Institution, the largest prison in Oregon. During the experiment, half of the prisoners had access to nature videos between three to four times a week during their “indoor recreation time.” The content ranged from views of Earth from space, cloud fly-throughs, and scenes from aquariums, oceans, mountain ranges, or forests. The others had no access to the videos.

“We found that inmates who watched nature videos committed 26% fewer violent infractions. 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,” explained Dr Hasbach.

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