Gandhi was twice jailed at a prison called Yerwada in Pune, India, and his influence seems to have lingered there. Prisoners can now obtain papers for early release if they make top marks on their exam after taking an intensive yoga course.
Prisoners are eligible for release three months sooner than their expected incarceration length as an incentive to do well while staying there. The prison program director, Dr. Bhushankumar Upadhyay says:
“Yoga has been proven scientifically to improve the mental and physical condition. It improves our overall behavior and calms down our violent tendencies.”
Dr. Upadhyay explains that the Indian government allows remission to prisoners who show good behavior, and the Pune jail simply extends this to those who excel at yoga.
The yoga program is six months long, and prisoners have to sit for the practical exam once the course is completed. Those who complete the course are also encouraged to teach yoga to fellow prisoners at other jails around Maharashtra state.
Dr. Upadhyay also hopes that, of the 1500 prisoners who initially participate in the program, many will take what they learn to other parts of India and even to other countries, using the yoga model as a way to rehabilitate prisoners quickly and effectively.
Along with the yoga program, prisoners can also gain early release for participating in the prison’s carpentry shop, or simply by displaying good conduct.
Yerwada jail has a history of success implementing innovative rehabilitation programs. It has taught inmates Gandhian principles in an educational program. Of those who participated in the year-long course of study, two-thirds of inmates believed their previous actions which landed them in jail were wrong, and wished to seek forgiveness from victims’ families. Prison officials also say that incidences of violence dropped significantly when the inmates participated in the course.
If the Gandhian Principles course has had such a profound affect on prisoners, it will be wonderful to see how effective the yoga program truly is for those inmates who choose to participate in it.
Images credit: IndiaTimes
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