Prison Smart - Approach

The Solution - The Art of Living Foundation's prison program

Conceived by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar this unique Program specifically reaches out to all caught up in the crime-nexus, whether perpetrators, or victims; law-breakers, or law enforcers.The Art of Living PRISON SMART exists to circumvent the loss of valuable human resource that so often accompanies cycles of incarceration and release, and whose consequences reverberate through all sections of society. It aims to reform, transform and channelize this precious human resource into the upliftment of individual and society alike.

The Art of Living PRISON SMART provides the structure to deliver the common goal of uplifting human values within the criminal and the law-enforcing justice community. The program is a valuable tool for all those working to end the cycle of violence and abuse in society, whether through law enforcement, social rehabilitation, conflict resolution or human development. We work in tandem with probation departments, family and juvenile court systems, administrators and correctional officers of penal institutions, law enforcement departments to implement the various activities of the PRISON SMART program.

We form strategic alliances with social service agencies and organizations whose clientele deal with the aftermath of crime and violence - i.e. ex-offenders’ transition, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, substance abuse programs, families of murder victims - to offer tools that alleviate the experience of trauma. Studies conducted in the criminal justice arena have shown that such programs help to reduce and further prevent relapse into criminal tendencies.

The Art of Living PRISON SMART is adaptable to serve the needs of institutions, law enforcement departments and social rehabiliation organizations.

The challenge

Under conditions of confinement, violent tendencies and negative emotions, are only intensified, causing unimaginable damage to the psyche of inmates. This makes them hazardous not only to those around them, but to their own selves as well. Worse still are their degenerating mental and emotional states which make them even more dangerous, once they are freed.

The result?

A very high likelihood that they will revert to a life of crime, and find themselves back the behind bars, before long. ‘Punishment’ for its own sake is pointless, if it doesn’t transform the mindsets and attitudes of offenders. A prison can thus become a dangerous breeding ground for criminals, fuelling the very activity it seeks to deter.

Incarcerated individuals have little control over their circumstances or future. Years of confinement result in greater loss of self-worth, a growing sense of anger, anxiety and despair. Families of the incarcerated are also doing time. The burden can be crippling. Half of all male children of inmates will also enter the system as juveniles. Ex-offenders find that freedom from the impact of incarceration does not end at the moment of release. Years of built up anger and frustration accompany them as they transition back into the community. Many will return to commit in crimes within a year of release. Law enforcement officers are the first line of defense in dangerous and life-threatening circumstances. The day-to-day challenges tax the body, mind and emotions.

Prison staff on a daily basis, work under incredibly stressful working conditions. The overcrowding that exists in many institutions adds to the anger and frustration of inmates which result in more frequent altercations between inmates and increased threat of staff assault.

Communities also suffer a wide range of effects; 90 percent of all incarcerated individuals will someday be released. The majority of these individuals will be released into urban areas already struggling with economic problems, fear, victims of violent crimes and substance abuse.