BETTERMENT OF PRISON CONDITIONS
I suspend my judgment and say to myself: “I am, like him, only a human being.
Through favourable circumstances I received an education which perhaps alone saved me
from a similar fate.”
I may then also come to the conclusion that this human brother of mine
would have become a different man had my teachers taken the same pains with him they took with me.
I shall reflect on the fact that something was given to me which was withheld from him,
that I enjoy my fortune precisely because it was denied him.
And then I shall naturally come to think of myself
as a link in the whole of humanity
and a sharer in the responsibility for everything that occurs.
Knowledge of the Higher Worlds 5
The Conditions of Esoteric Training
In order to solve a problem, one must first understand it.
By getting to know each person in prison, we try to understand their circumstances, what got them here, and how to tackle the roots of these issues. Why does a 13-year-old end up in prison? Did he have no other choice than to do what he did that got him here? And after being released, why does he come back? What drives a man to commit a certain felony, knowing he find himself locked in a prison cell for years? Why is a woman taken away from her new-born baby, to spend months in prison, only to find herself being released and proven innocent? Most importantly, could this whole situation have been avoided?
Here are some of the activities we have been working on in different prisons in Lebanon, and what we aim to reach in the near future.
Group and individual therapy: focus on instilling hope and coping with their past and present. Help them gain a greater understanding of themselves, and forgive themselves, and others.
Reduce Idleness/Inactivity in prisons: increase opportunities for prisoners to deal with their emotions through exercise, arts, sports, cultural and religious activities. Active inmates are less likely to feel stressed and hostile. Provide them with books in order to help them use their time to educate themselves and increase their knowledge.
Improve hygiene and life conditions: after having renovated 7 of Roumieh’s largest cells (100-120 persons in each) in 2016 and 2017, we are now hoping to tackle other health care issues. Provide prisoners with clean tap water and train prisoners for preventive health care (including: basic food preparation, sanitary and personal hygiene).
Review legal cases/hire lawyers: Reduce the number of non-convicted prisoners by establishing a process so that lawyers, prosecutors and judges can review the legal status of individual detainees and make appropriate recommendations to the court. Accelerate these processes. Currently, there are still people in prison who have spent up 3 and even 4 years without having been sentenced yet.
Accelerate release: Ensure that some volunteer lawyers or para-legal help the detained to prepare for their bail hearing and thus reduce the time they have to wait before their case. Gather enough money to pay for people’s bail fees. People spend months in prison, sometimes because of an unpaid fine of as little as 15 000 L.L (10 U.S dollars).
Increase alternatives: Convene meetings with judges, politicians, different members of the community, lawyers and other relevant groups to discuss the use of other punishments rather than imprisonment for non-dangerous offenders. Consider arranging the meetings in prison to make them aware of the existing conditions.
Follow-up with families: We understand the hurt a person in prison is feeling, and we feel the sorrow his/ her family is enduring. In most cases, it is the “man of the family” who is in prison, the provider, thus leaving behind a wife and children suffering not only from emotional damage, but also find themselves with no income. In some cases, it is the mother who is in prison, leaving her children scarred and with a void only she can fill. And in other cases, it is the child who is in prison, leaving his or her parents angry, sad and often not knowing how to deal with the situation.
Follow-up with prisoners after their release: During our visits to prisons, we have repeatedly heard prisoners complain about their fear of going back to the real world. Social reinsertion is a crucial part of a person’s therapeutic path and should by no means be neglected. It is important for the person to feel accepted by the community and slowly find his or her place in the society. Otherwise, the chances of them returning to prisons are high.
Improve hygiene by: Training prisoners for preventive health care (including: basic food preparation, sanitary and personal hygiene).
Clean water project: Provide prisoners with clean tap water.
Growing food: Involving the work of low-risk inmates in cultivating gardens vegetable gardens, raising livestock (eg cattle, sheep, poultry) to provide them with a good variety.