What is the Prison SMART Program?
Prison SMART (Stress Management And Rehabilitation Training)
“If people get sick, we take them to the hospital and give them the right medicine to get better. If people’s behaviour is sick, we bring them to the prison, but we forget the medicines.” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
The Prison SMART Programme aims to transform the lives of people working in or incarcerated within the criminal justice system.
The goal of the Prison SMART Programme is the complete social rehabilitation of offenders, thereby reducing the reoffending rate and impacting the safety and comfort of all. The second goal is to support the noble professions of law enforcement in what can be highly stressful circumstances.
Prison SMART teaches skills that reduce stress, heal trauma and provides practical knowledge of how to handle negative emotions in order to live to one's highest potential and contribute to society in a positive way.
- So far the lives of more than 350,000 prison inmates have been transformed through the ‘Prison SMART’ programs
The basic premise of the program is that no individual is really ‘bad’ but takes to crime due to external stressors which they are unable to deal with effectively.
The Prison SMART Programme runs rehabilitation training programs for prisoners, residents of detention centres, those on parole and probation, at-risk youth, victims of crime, as well as providing stress-management seminars for law enforcement officers and probation staff. The program started in the USA in 1992 and now operates in many countries across the world.
In Europe the program is running in Poland, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Serbia, UK, Lithuania, Belorussia, Croatia, Norway, Sweden, Russia and Germany - to name only the most extensive cases.
The Prison SMART Program is based on awakening values that are inherent in each of us but have been covered by layers of stress, a situation which leads to negative emotions and can result in violent reactions if not dealt with at an early stage. For every such emotion, there is a corresponding and unique rhythm in the breath. By attending to the breath we can not only control our emotions, but eliminate toxins that have built up in our body through suppressed emotions such as anger, guilt and frustration. By relieving pent up emotions, we are able to deal with life in a much calmer and constructive manner.
Prison SMART is a practical and effective stress management programme mainly based on breathing techniques. The powerful breathing techniques remove accumulated stress from the organism and have a strong cleansing effect on body and mind. The cornerstone of the program, the Sudarshan Kriya technique, is a no-cost, self-empowering tool that transforms overpowering emotions and restores calm and alertness. The programme offers prisoners the possibility to learn to deal more constructively with their often deep-rooted feelings of fear, guilt, depression, despair and revenge. Feelings such as rage, aggression and frustration make way for enthusiasm and a positive frame of mind. Prison SMART provides a basis for the ability to cope for oneself, increases self-confidence, strengthens human values and reduces reliance on addictive substances. The prisoners learn skills to deal with future conflict and stressful situations successfully. The SMART programme cuts through the circle of violence as detainees become more conscious of the consequences of their actions, take on responsibility and search for the solutions to their problems within themselves rather than in the outside world. As such, the prison becomes an opportunity for self-reflection and the programme lays the foundation for genuine rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
Course participants report:
- normalized sleep patterns
- reduced depression and anxiety
- decreased reliance on medication and drugs
- increased energy
- increased focus and clarity of mind
- increased resilience to daily stressors of life
- decreased interpersonal conflicts
- decreased engaging in destructive behaviour
- improved immunity and physical well-being
- freedom from traumatic scars of the past
- greater positive outlook on the future
The Prison SMART programme can partly accommodate the current lack of mental health care and rehabilitation in prisons, both efficiently and at low cost. It can also make a substantial contribution to limiting the negative consequences caused by the overburdening of prison staff and infrastructure, pending the realization of structural solutions.
Apart from the course for detainees, a variant of the course is also offered to prison staff, correctional officers, law enforcement administrators, victims of violence and crime, youngsters at risk and refugees.