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Sri Sri Visits HM Thameside Prison

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Image credit: Previous graduates of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Prison SMART program

Globally recognised teacher champions prisoner rehabilitation in London prison . . . . reports Asian Lite News

Sri Sri outside the HM Prison Thameside
Sri Sri outside the HM Prison Thameside

HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, well recognised worldwide as a teacher and leader in humanitarian projects specialising in Prisoner Rehabilitation, Trauma Relief, and Conflict Resolution, visited HM  Thameside Prison for an interactive exchange with over 60 prisoners and 25 staff there. His innovative Prison SMART programme has been conducted there for 4 years and evaluated with extremely positive outcomes impressing both staff and prisoners alike.

Prison SMART provides a very cost effective and rapid intervention with clear benefits for both prison staff and the offenders. It is shown to have clear benefits for rehabilitation, improved physical and mental health, reduced tension and aggression, as well as being good for an overall improved atmosphere and smooth running of the prison. The indicators for the reduction of reoffending are also very positive. An evaluation shows, amongst other things a 71% improvement in anger management, and 70 % reduced desire for alcohol and drugs and significant improvements in sleep, coping capacity and other positive factors for wellbeing.

This programme has been implemented in 60+ countries and benefitted over 400,000 offenders and prison staff worldwide. In the UK, it ran successfully between 2004-2013, with around 50 courses in Highdown Prison, Surrey. Its popularity resulted in it being heavily oversubscribed, with often 100 applicants for every 20 places.

Image credit: Previous graduates of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Prison SMART program
Image credit: Previous graduates of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Prison SMART program

Key among the benefits of this programme is that it is equally attractive to both Prison Management and inmates, bringing cost effective and speedy solutions for the perennial expensive and troublesome headaches of running a prison, whilst also improving the experience of the prisoners for their health, wellbeing and rehabilitation. This programme can be hailed as a potential important tool for managing the country’s prisons in this era of cutbacks, high prison populations and the drive to reduce reoffending. Prison SMART goes to the root and aims to break the cycle of violence in our society. As one participant exclaimed: “This is the future of the prisons!”

In this Interactive session with Sri Sri,the staff and Prison SMART graduates had a lively exchange and directly posed questions to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Responding to their queries regarding how to manage trauma, regret, anger and hatred; Sri Sri stressed upon all inmates to explore these practical techniques to in order to live life in a more happy, healthy and fulfilling way, both inside and outside the prison. The Governor of Prison Craig Thomson escorted and accompanied Sri Sri Ravi Shankar from his arrival through till the end of his visit. Sri Sri gave the Prison staff who help coordinate the programmes a stole each as a mark of acknowledgment for their contribution and support. Michael Irwin, ex-inmate and Prison SMART course graduate shared his experience of transformation with all those present. Later Sri Sri Ravi Shankar invited him to become a Prison SMART trainer.

The training takes place typically for 3 hours over 7 consecutive working days. This week with a mixed group of 20 very young and older offenders, some preparing for imminent release, others with many years still to serve. All are ready for a change in their lives, whether it is to reduce their anger and hatred, depression and anxiety, PTS symptoms and sleeping problems, or to become a better person, for themselves, their children and families…. They are very grateful to have this opportunity as Thameside is currently the only prison in the UK which offers Prison SMART.