Antarkranti: Prisoner Reformation Program

Prison_cell_block

After attending a conference on Prisoner Reformation and rehabilitation, my interest in this arena increased manifold. I started to inquire about organizations working for prisoner reformation and rehabilitation in India, and came across one particular social organization which has been very active and one of the oldest contributors in this field of prisoner reformation and rehabilitation. The name of the organization is Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan, and it started its initiative in this particular sector through its intervention program, Antarkranti.

Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan, is a socio-spiritual organization based in India which has been working for human upliftment and world peace to be attained through the inner transformation of every individual. Its head and founder, Sri Ashutosh Maharaj Ji, had the firm belief that every human being is important and that there is ample scope for mind metamorphosis through the power of soul. I was actually amazed to learn that the organization has instigated its efforts in multifarious directions to include every single sector of society.

Since prisoners are an inseparable element of our society, the organization started its “Antarkranti” intervention program to reform, rehabilitate and reintegrate the incarcerated population in India.

The term “Antarkranti” in Hindi means “inner revolution”. The goal of the program is to awaken within prison inmates a yearning and subsequent ability to initiate self-correction so that the incarcerated population can develop into a productive human resource and can be reintegrated into society as responsible individuals.

Antarkranti was first started as a pilot program in the largest prison in India, Tihar central jail, in 1995. Since then the program has reached out to many prisoners across 40 jails in India. Initially, the program began with activities of spiritual counseling, initiation into Divine Knowledge, drug de-addiction, as well as encouraging prisoners to engage in music and yoga.

The impact of the program was found to be remarkable as it brought about positive changes in attitude and behavior amongst those prisoners who were engaged in the program. I further learned that witnessing such remarkable changes amongst the prisoners motivated the prison authorities to provide a permanent space for the organization within the prison premises in 1998. Since then, the organization has successfully brought many prisoners in touch with spirituality.

The program has integrated spiritual empowerment as a transformational tool with the correctional activities that are carried out in all prisons across India.

Many amongst the prisoners who came in touch with the organization and underwent the process of reformation now themselves work for social upliftment and have been given the responsibility to help other inmates to get in touch with their inner selves and lead a meaningful life.

Through some of the volunteers of the program I got to know that a very peaceful and pleasant environment has been created within the prison premises through the program. One could find prisoners sitting and meditating in the Ashram or spiritual center established within the prison premises. At other times, volunteers of the organization would provide yoga training to the prisoners, while at other times, musical evenings within prison premises are held, where prisoners participate and perform.

I was told by the volunteers that most prisoners are prone to depression, a sense of hopelessness, anxiety about their future upon release, a lack of any motivation in life, and especially a diminishing and dwindling sense of compassion for others. Moreover, the desire to start life afresh upon release diminishes considerably amongst prisoners. In such a situation, providing new hope becomes important if the prisoners are to live a normal life after release.

I could understand that one of the goals of Antarkranti as a reformation program is to provide a new lease of life to the prisoners who usually start to believe that there’s not much left in life for them.

The risk of not transforming the repeated offenders or hard core criminals is that they would return to society and revert back to criminal activities upon release. I still have no idea about the success rate in transforming hard core criminals but I believe that incremental changes in the right direction would obviously pave the way towards the goals of the organization in the near future.

The challenge in reforming a prisoner is to ensure a transformation that would not waver even in the worst of situations. I was told by the volunteers of the organization that most convicted prisoners experience peaks of realization about the mistake they had made in life and thus bouts of guilt and repentance. However, the challenge and need is to make such realization permanent, which would be able to lead the way towards a genuine transformation amongst the prisoners. Rather than bouts of realization and guilt, what is needed is to help the prisoners reach a plateau of awareness.

We all experience bouts of realization for whatsoever mistakes we make in life, but seldom are such realizations of such a nature that would deter us from repeating them.

Thus the organization places much emphasis on mind metamorphosis in order to lead the way towards inner transformation. It believes that only through mind metamorphosis in the right direction can a prisoner be deterred from slipping into the world of crime or transgressions.

An understanding of the greater purpose of life is necessary to motivate them to choose the path of goodness and righteousness. Moreover, the organization has taken up the challenge to evoke compassion amongst those who are behind bars, so that their frustration and angst against the world does not get cemented into their psyche.

I admit that I never took the time to think about the need to try and transform prisoners into good human beings who can contribute positively for world peace. I never thought about trying to see the world from their perspective. I was aware that many innocent people are incarcerated but seldom had I realized how important it is to help those who are struggling in prison. 

Credits

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Prison_cell_block Prison_cell_block Bob Jagendorf CC BY 2.0