An offshoot of the Santo Daime has begun treating small groups of inmates with ayahuasca as Brazil struggles with a growing prison population. In addition, the inmates practice meditation and tend to a vegetable garden that contains the plants used to make ayahuasca.
JI-PARANÁ, Brazil — As the night sky enveloped this outpost in Brazil's Amazon basin, the ceremony at the open-air temple began simply enough.
Dozens of adults and children, all clad in white, stood in a line. A holy man handed each a cup of ayahuasca, a muddy-looking hallucinogenic brew. They gulped it down; some vomited. Hymns were sung. More ayahuasca was consumed. By midnight, the congregants seemed strangely energized. Then the dancing began.
Such rituals are a fixture across the Amazon, where ayahuasca has been consumed for centuries and entire religions have coalesced around the psychedelic concoction. But the ceremony one night this month was different: Among those imbibing from the holy man’s decanter were prison inmates, convicted of crimes such as murder, kidnapping and rape.