For most part our society treats people who commit serious mistakes in life as criminals worthy of punishment, without seeing the need for real change within these individuals. Brazil has taken a step forward in the right direction by bringing some healing and hope for salvation for the prisoners in the form of the visionary brew, Ayahuasca.

The Brazilian prison system has seen many bloody revolts in recent times and the number of prisoners incarcerated has also increased exponentially. Acuda, a prisoners’ rights group in Porto Velho, began offering inmates therapy sessions in Yoga, Meditation and Reiki, a healing ritual directing energy from the practitioner’s hands to a patient’s body.

Two years ago, the volunteer therapists at Acuda had a new idea: Why not give the inmates ayahuasca as well? The Amazonian brew, which is generally made by blending and boiling a vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) with a leaf (Psychotria viridis), is growing in popularity in Brazil, the United States and other countries.

Acuda had trouble finding a place where the inmates could drink Ayahuasca, but they were finally accepted by the Santo Daime Church. Santo Daime is a Brazilian religion founded in the 1930s that blends Catholicism, African traditions and the trance communications with spirits popularized in the 19th century by a Frenchman known as Allan Kardec.

“Many people in Brazil believe that inmates must suffer, enduring hunger and depravity,” said Euza Beloti, 40, a psychologist with Acuda. “This thinking bolsters a system where prisoners return to society more violent than when they entered prison.” At Acuda, she said, “we simply see inmates as human beings with the capacity to change.”

In spite of the fact that some of these prisoners have committed heinous crimes towards innocent people, they too need a chance to change their lives for the better by turning within for answers and guidance from the spiritual realms which Ayahuasca brings to them. Anyone who is seeking forgiveness and, or needs to forgive in order to heal should be entitled the right to use any and all plant medicines that grow on our planet. Ayahuasca is one such powerful jungle medicine which heals us from deep within, with the help of an authentic shaman who guides us along our journey, and some help from the spirit world, always.

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