Globally recognized Teacher champions Prisoner Rehabilitation in London Prison.
Today Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, well recognized worldwide as a teacher and leader in humanitarian projects specializing in Prisoner Rehabilitation, Trauma Relief, and Conflict Resolution, visited HMP Thameside for an interactive exchange with over 100 prisoners and 25 staff there. His innovative Prison SMART program has been conducted there for 4 years and evaluated with extremely positive outcomes impressing both staff and prisoners alike.
“The most powerful thing I have ever done in my life in our out of jail” – A course graduate.
Prison SMART provides a very cost effective and rapid intervention with clear benefits for both prison staff and the offenders. It is shown to have clear benefits for rehabilitation, improved physical and mental health, reduced tension and aggression, as well as being good for an overall improved atmosphere and smooth running of the prison. The indicators for the reduction of reoffending are also very positive. See attached evaluation sheet showing amongst other things a 71% improvement in anger management, and 70 % reduced desire for alcohol and drugs and significant improvements in sleep, coping capacity and other positive factors for wellbeing.
This program has been implemented in 60+ countries and benefitted over 400,000 offenders and prison staff worldwide. In the UK, it ran successfully from 2004-2013, with around 50 courses in Highdown Prison, Surrey. Its popularity resulted in it being heavily oversubscribed, with often 100 applicants for every 20 places.
Key among the benefits of this program is that it is equally attractive to both Prison Management and inmates, bringing cost effective and speedy solutions for the perennial expensive and troublesome headaches of running a prison, whilst also improving the experience of the prisoners for their health, wellbeing and rehabilitation. This program can be hailed as a potential important tool for managing the country’s prisons in this era of cutbacks, high prison populations and the drive to reduce reoffending. Prison SMART goes to the root and aims to break the cycle of violence in our society. As one participant exclaimed, “This is the future of the prisons!”
In Thursday’s Interactive session with Sri Sri, the staff and Prison SMART graduates had a lively exchange and directly posed questions to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Responding to their queries regarding how to manage trauma, regret, anger and hatred; Sri Sri stressed upon all inmates to explore these practical techniques in order to live life in a more happy, healthy and fulfilling way, both inside and outside the prison. The session was attended by nearly 100 prison inmates and 25 staff members. The Governor of Prison Craig Thomson escorted and accompanied Sri Sri Ravi Shankar from his arrival onwards till the end of his visit. Sri Sri gave the Prison staff, which helps coordinate the programs, with a stole as a mark of acknowledgment for their contribution and support. Michael Irwin, ex-inmate and Prison SMART course graduate shared his experience of transformation with all those present. Later Sri Sri Ravi Shankar invited him to become a Prison SMART trainer.
The training takes place typically for 3 hours over 7 consecutive working days. This week with a mixed group of 20 very young and older offenders, some preparing for imminent release, others with many years still to serve. All are ready for a change in their lives, whether it is to reduce their anger and hatred, depression and anxiety, PTS symptoms and sleeping problems, or to become a better person, for themselves, their children and families. They are very grateful to have this opportunity as Thameside is currently the only prison in the UK which offers Prison SMART.
Mick Teesdale, the former Assistant Director of Reducing Reoffending at HMP Thameside confirmed, after observing the program in operation, listening to the participants and speaking to staff and trainers, that it “brings about profound personal transformation in the participants’ mindsets, attitudes, wellbeing, behavior and outlook” and that “The Prison SMART program could benefit Thameside in several ways such as:
- Reducing Reoffending
- Reducing violence (negative behavior, assaults, fights and bullying
- Safer Custody (managing self-harm)
- Contributing to managing poor mental health
- It has the potential to contribute to HR (Training and occupational Health) strategies for Thameside staff ”
Other recognized advantages are:
- After attending the program, prisoners become more receptive to other rehabilitation programs and services
- It is sustainable with a follow up program in the communities for ex-offenders
Comments from offenders who completed the course include:
“It is excellent. I want and need more. The course does what it says. I feel empowered to deal better with stress and depression and daily life in prison. I came to the course skeptical as to what effect it would have. I am totally converted – It is SO powerful. It has definitely improved my life”
“100% I am a changed man. I will look at life a different way from now onwards. This course should be introduced for all young people, and by the time they grow up they will not have the mindset to commit an offence.”
“This course will help me stop reoffending as it allows me to think before I act and where I want to be isn’t back in prison.”
“100% life changer for me for sure. I know if I had done this course before offending I would not have ended up here. I will be using this course for the rest of my life”
For more information: www.prisonsmart.eu