I never thought I’d say this but prisoners give the best massages! Yes, there was a happy ending, but it’s not what you think.  

What Is a Prison Massage?

15 years ago, the women’s prison in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, started an initiative to help their inmates reenter society. Today, many prisons in Thailand have adopted the program, since the results are so inspiring. When I went to Chiang Mai and learned about the prisoner massage, I couldn’t wait to try it.

The idea is to provide those ladies, who are interested and motivated, with the opportunity to receive vocational training as masseuses, while they are still in prison. As a result, they are able to save up some money for their life after the sentence is up, and find a job, instead of stealing, working a corner, or ruining their lives in some other way.

Tea with the prisoners.
Along with the massage, you are also treated to a small tea ceremony.

Where to Go

In Chiang Mai there are two places, where you can get massaged by a prisoner. While there are plenty of places that will be happy to give you a shady massage, these two are a part of the prison’s program. So, you get a great massage and help the community at the same time.

One of the salons employs women who are still in prison but have already completed a professional course in massage therapy. They are inmates but during the day they work at a massage studio in the center of Chiang Mai, near the Three Kings Monument. The other option is a SPA chain called Lila, where ex-prisoners are employed. I chose the first because I wanted to experience the authentic initiative and was not happy with the way clients are being treated at Lila.

Is it Scary to Get a Prisoner Massage?

In truth, the correctional institution’s massage center is a wonderful place. Most people try to avoid prison, not get a massage there, so some part of me was worried about what I had gotten myself into.  Actually, the studio is located in the midst of a lush garden, with fountains and a restaurant that offers Thai specialties.

The massage studio's garden
The studio is located in the middle of a lush garden, with fountains and sculpture.

Nothing but the sign on the door and prison guards in uniforms sets this place apart from hundreds of other massage studios in Chiang Mai. The guards, however, were nothing like the scary people you see in movies. They welcomed me with a smile, remained silently confused when I told them that I was traveling alone, and answered all my questions while killing monsters on their phones.

One of the prison guards at the studio

How Does the Program Work

The program allows every prisoner, who is interested, to sign up for a free course. Inmates who want to receive a professional qualification, have to go through 360 hours of training. Only then can they work at the studio in Chiang Mai. After the studio takes care of their utility bills, the women are paid 50% of what is left. The amount is divided evenly between them.

The qualification, experience, and money they receive allow these women to start building a better life, even before they’ve gotten out of prison.

The studio is clean, subtly lit, and ambient. The masseuses know enough English to understand if you feel uncomfortable or are in pain. You can communicate with them to a level where it is clear that they are sweet ladies, who enjoy their job and they are excellent at it too.

My massage did have a happy ending, in the form of complete relaxation, along with a sense of satisfaction, because I had not only taken for myself but also given back.

Appointments are made the day of, on sight. Make sure you go as early as possible since spots fill up quickly.

Wifi: “inmate massage” 😀

Would you ever try a prison massage? Share your opinion in the comments below 🙂[/vc_column_text][/vc_column]