Prison-Program - South Africa

Prison Stress Management and Rehabilitation Training (SMART)

The Prison SMART program has been taught in South Africa since 2002. It has been very successful over the years covering seven prisons nationally. Two new prisons were opened in 2008, and to date over 7000 inmates have benefited.

Prison SMART has also received great print media coverage over the years which have built up its credibility. The team has also been instrumental in building up Prison SMART in Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Kenya through recommendations from the nine prisons in South Africa.

Research on impact of Prison SMART

A research was carried out on the impact of the Prison Program on the behavior and health of the inmates.


Results showed a remarkable decline in the anger and aggression levels of inmates. Out of the 41 participants surveyed 20 were male and 21 were female.

Out of these:

  • 75.6% shared improvement in anger levels; 68.3% said there was an improvement in clarity of mind
  • 58.5% said their fears have come down; 68.3% reported decrease in sadness and depression
  • 46.3% observed the need for medication changed and 29.3% saw no change
  • 75.6% reported increase in energy levels and 2% saw no change
  • 68.3% felt lethargy levels were reduced; sleep improved for 85.4%
  • 75.6% found an improvement in physical well being
  • 75.6% reported increase in energy levels
  • Quality of sleep improved for 78%

The Leeukop Prison, Johannesburg

The first prison course held at the Leeukop prison took place in April 2002, facilitated by Mr.Tom Duffy. 45 inmates participated and within a short period of time the transformation in the offenders became more prominent.

Workshops began to be facilitated on a monthly basis. It was seen that inmates inspire their cellmates to take up the workshop.

“I am now feeling healthier and calm and I can cope with my stress accordingly and not to forget, my sleep has improved a lot. I personally think this course helps you to communicate with your inner self. And it really helps me a lot with becoming stable and calm” - Siphiwe.

“At this moment, I found the medicine to kick this killer disease, which means I have eternal life because of this program and I can live my life like a candle in the rain. I would like to thank almighty God to give you this chance to come here and teach us how to handle our lives, without harming ourselves. In this regard I am saying God Bless you for the rest of your life and have eternal life. I wish you Good Luck and Don’t Give Up! Thanks” - Eric Matau, Kwazulu Natal Prison Program.

41 inmates participated in the Prison SMART course. They loved every minute of it. They all arrived early for their sessions and eagerly waited for the program facilitators each morning. Everyone went through the yoga, breathing and knowledge with 100 percent focus and enthusiasm.

At their graduation all the inmates were personally congratulated by the Deputy-head of Development and Care (KZN head office) and the section social workers. Ms Dlamini and Ms Kheswa (she did the course with the youth) were sterling examples of selfless service.

The Boksburg Prison

Two courses were run in Boksburg in January 2007 at Medium Section with 53 inmates and another in June 2007 at Juveniles with 30 offenders. The results after the course have been fantastic, as evidenced at the Correctional Services Week where the introverted offender, Mzwakhe Luvuno spoke highly about the benefits of the course.

All the participants reported improved, and undisturbed sleep patterns. The participants are much more forgiving and accountable for their own goals and life ambitions. All participants requested that the other offenders and members do the course. Some offenders have returned to their studies and their level of memory retention has increased. 

Groenpunt Maximum Security Prison

Is transformation of hard-core criminals possible? Transformation into what? What were they like before they got into crime? Were they born as dangerous and violent criminals?

Change begins to take place when the focus is on the answer to the last question. With a strong belief in the inherent good of humanity, volunteers from The Art of Living started a 7-day Prison Program for the inmates of Groenpunt Maximum Security Prison in South Africa.

The aim was to bring calmness and peace to them through effective breathing techniques as well as yoga postures. A look into the life of the inmates who are termed amongst the most violent in South Africa, reveals their human side. Most of them are young and imprisoned for life. The journey into crime began with one wrong step, the result of one bad decision and then the supposedly never ending vicious circle begins.

The Prison Program approach breaks the vicious circle and gives the prisoners a new life.

24 year old Maxwell Buthelezi is in jail for life. "This program has helped me with my anger", he says.

"Just the other day I was talking on the phone and someone was bothering me. Normally I would fight him but I stopped myself. I said to him: 'Listen my brother, what is it that you want me to do? That night in my cell I felt happy, because I knew I'd dealt with the situation in the right way."

The program moves beyond the unanswerable 'whys' to the productive 'hows'. It addresses the immediate need of bringing peace into each and every life that it touches.

The team of dedicated volunteers under the leadership of Ansuya Ghosal, trains the participants with the contents of the course. The result is visible in the prisoners' glowing smiles.