Both crime and criminal are treated as unpardonable in any society. Solitary confinement of criminals was thought to be an effective way to help offenders become penitent resulting in transformation. Hence, prison system emerged as the formal way of punishment and is being followed in India since Eighteenth Century.
To bring about a real transformation in the lives of people behind prisons, the Art of living Foundation initiated the Prison SMART program. It involves teaching meditation, yoga, pranayama and Sudarshan Kriya to bring inner peace and transformation. The program has positively impacted the lives of more than 7,00,000 inmates.
Once a person is declared criminal, he is socially unacceptable by the society. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says that prisoners are our fellow brothers/sisters and they need to be transformed from within. The prison SMART program has been started with the objective of increasing social acceptability of the released prisoners. Efforts are also being made to associate the prisoners with the Kaushal Vikas Yojna to provide them employment.
Bhopal Central Jail, Madhya Pradesh, has implemented the Art of Living Prison smart programs for last 2 years and lives of around 2500 prisoners have been impacted through the program. The YLTP (Youth Leadership Training Program) was conducted in July 2017 followed by Prison SMART-Part II program in August 2017. Another prison SMART-Part II program was conducted in March 2018 by senior Art of Living Faculty, Shri Ajay Valecha, assisted by Shri Raj Kishore, Dr. Lokendra Singh kot, Smt. Lata kot. Dinesh Khandelwal and Dr. Nilesh Arya (DIG, ITBP and an Art of Living faculty) and faculty from government, Medical colleges.
Mr. Dinesh Nargave, Jail Superintendent, shared that there are two types of general tendencies among the prisoners. Either they feel guilty of committing the crime and go into depression or they feel very aggressive towards the legal system considering that justice was denied to them.The course has helped them to understand themselves and accept it as their karma/part of life.
He mentioned that Muslim inmates considered Yoga practices as a part of Hindu religion. But gradually they realized that there is no such religious discrimination associated with these courses.
Quoting some of the experiences from the inmates would be worthwhile at this point.
Shri Santosh, one of the inmates, shares, “The program changed me completely and I want to start a new life” Gurpreet from Punjab shares, “I was extremely short tempered, and had lack of understanding. Now, I experience change and I teach Yoga and meditation to my prison mates. Mohammad Anas shares, “He feels more depth in his prayers/offerings”
One inmate mentioned that Sudarshan Kriya helped him realize that ultimate happiness lies within the Self. Another inmate said that Sudarshan Kriya is like a process that turns dirty water into clean water. Positive feelings emerge from the soul.