Westville prisoners are smart

Compiled by Indhrannie Pillay

"I've learnt that my life does not end in prison." These are the words of a 19 year-old juvenile at Westville Correctional Facility in Durban, who recently completed Prison SMART (Stress Management and Rehabilitation Training)

Prison SMART is a unique rehabilitation programme offered by the International Association for Human Values (IAHV), working with The Art of Living Foundation (ALF)
For this young man and 40 other prisoners who recently completed the programme, Prison Smart, marks the beginning to a healthy approach to life. It has enabled them to understand themselves and equip themselves with the skills to maintain inner peace and a shared responsibility toward humankind.
Mr Chinz Bhana, national co-ordinator of Prison Smart, said, "Such depth of inner transformation is necessary to deal with crime in a systemic manner." He relates the story of a 41-year old former teacher, who is serving a 20 year sentence for the killing of her brother. According to the prisoner, she was framed by her sister. “The most stressful thing she endured was to leave her children and husband and she found it difficult to adjust to the prison environment,” he said. “Now, her eyes and mind are open to living a positive mindset. She has become a role model for other women at Westville and helps to teach inmates. Most importantly, the programme has given her self-esteem.”
Prison Smart Programme

IAHV conducted qualitative and quantitative research into the impact of the Prison Smart program on behavioral and physical outcomes for selected inmates at the Westville Correctional Facility. The results prove that there was a significant relationship between improved behavioural patterns and the implementation of the Prison Smart programme. This was measured by anger levels, clarity of mind, fear, anxiety, restlessness and depression. The research also showed a significant relationship between improved levels of physical well being and the implementation of the Prison Smart program, as measured by the demand for medication, energy levels, lethargy and exhaustion, sleep and physical well-being.
According to His Holiness, Sri Sri Ravishankar, the founder of the ALF, the real problem underlying crime is stress which creates toxins in the nervous system. The nature of the human mind wavers between regrets or pleasures of the past and desires or fears of the future. This creates stress, therefore, everyone must be equipped to cope with the pressure of daily stress, including those who are not economically active.
The position of IAHV on crime is that it reflects the stress of the society in which it exists. Anyone is capable of committing crime. When thoughts and emotions are confused, value boundaries blur and inappropriate action is taken to achieve a perceived goal. For this reason, Prison Smart works to contribute to the sustainable, multi-dimensional, holistic and multi-sectoral approach to crime that reduces the stress suffered by perpetrators of crime, victims of crime and social justice workers, including judges, lawyers, the police, prison and social workers.
“By knowing the life skills to manage stress, individuals act and respond to others with appropriate emotions and thoughts. Without being taught and nurtured with this capability by parents, siblings, educators, peers or managers, individuals usually end up in a prison or mental institution.”, Chintz said.
During the Prison Smart programme, prisoners are taught breathing techniques, meditation, knowledge on the science of life and their social impact that help to increase their vitality. According to Mr. S.S Dingaan, Regional Director of Care Services for the Westville facility, “Their work is to help reduce stress among offenders, violence in prison and help prisoners to adapt and accept their situation. Prison Smart has made a positive impact on lives of the prisoners and the general atmosphere of this facility.” 

About the International Association of Human Values

The IAHV implements educational programs and humanitarian service projects that: 
• Uplift the individual by offering simple, effective techniques that eliminate stress and increase vitality and productivity.
• Make a difference in community by emphasizing social responsibility and inspiring individuals to give back to their communities. 
• Foster global change catering to the need for moving from limited identifications of nationality, race, religion and culture to a broader understanding of the unity of human life, which can help to bring about a more peaceful world.
Over the past five years, the IAHV lobbied and consulted prison authorities and social workers for a national rollout of Prison Smart in correctional facilities around South Africa. The Prison Smart team works closely with each facility's management team and support services toward outcomes defined in a quality assurance agreement.  
About The Art of Living Foundation
The Art of Living Foundation is an international nonprofit educational, charitable, and humanitarian organization, which is dedicated to serving society by strengthening the individual. This is done by offering programmes that eliminate stress and create a sense of belonging. As an NGO, the Art of Living Foundation works in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. In 2006, the Foundation celebrated its international Silver Jubilee and tenth anniversary in South Africa.

Projects the Satyagraha Volunteer can get involved in

The Art of Living Foundation in South Africa embarks on many outreach programmes to help bring relief to the needy and disadvantaged. Listed below are some of the service projects that the foundation engages in. The foundation welcomes anyone who is interested in becoming a volunteer or assisting with the projects. For more Details contact Shooks Dorasamy on 031 566 0653; or [email protected]

• Assistance to drug addicts in KZN
In Durban the Art of Living is working together with rehabilitation centres to help drug addicts from impoverished areas break their habits.

In the Durban region, the use of "sugars", which is a cheap mixture of residual cocaine and heroin cut with anything from rat poison to household detergents, has become endemic and is affecting many youth. Rehabilitation clinics in the area have incorporated the Art of Living Programmes in their sessions to successfully help many youth here.

• Computer Literacy centre
During the Youth Leadership training program conducted by IAHV in 2004, a growing need for computer literacy training amongst the community was identified. Dobsonville, Soweto was identified as the need. The computer laboratories at local schools were either inadequate or non-existent. Forte High School in Dobsonville was identified as the venue where the classes would be conducted, and a memorandum of understanding is in place between the school and us.

AOL volunteers have designed the courses as far as possible to meet the PC literacy requirements of the general business community. In addition life skills courses will also be offered with a view to ensuring a balanced and practical skills training programme.

The project team sourced a partnership with Internet Solutions to provide free connectivity for the project. Nedcor, Mutual & federal and the Art of Living volunteers donated, tables, chairs, PC's, monitors, keyboards for the classes. The opening of the literacy project happened in January 2006, after 1 year of work. Programmes have begun, and trainers volunteer their time over weekends to do the training for those in need.

• Organic Farming
After taking a Breath Water Sound Course in her area and being given basic training in food gardens, Nyameka was inspired to continue the work to feed the hungry people in her community of Silver City, Cape Town. As an AIDS orphan, activist and caregiver, she was motivated to help those who were malnourished and having to take strong medication on empty stomachs. She got together a small group of volunteers and initiated a number of large food gardens in her area, where she skillfully manages giving to those that cannot afford to pay and selling her produce for a nominal amount, to those who are employed.

• Eastern Cape YLTP and rural development program

The Art of Living has begun a new project in the Eastern Cape Region in cooperation with the House of Traditional Leaders where they are conducting stress management and self-development co urses with local communities. These courses are currently in very high demand. They inspire people to take responsibility for their own development, thereby encouraging empowerment and ownership of development projects. After the courses people discuss which development projects they would like to initiate and Art of Living supports them by helping to remove any obstacles that might be in the way.

An Art of Living Teacher will be living and working full time in the Eastern Cape for the next three to five years. The long term goal is to focus on and develop a model village in partnership with locals. This village will serve as an example of the possibilities of community development. In this village the Art of Living's 5h program will be initiated where the focus is on: Health, Homes, Hygiene, Human Values and Harmony in Diversity. The Art of Living will also continue to work in a larger area conducting Art of Living courses and development projects.