Global tool for rehabilitation

25 November, 2010

Examples of prison art initiatives from Pakistan to Trinidad and Tobago are evidence of a flourishing global movement towards the use of creativity as an important tool for rehabilitation.

Earlier this month 30 inmates crammed into one room at Karachi Central Jail in Pakistan to take part in an art class.

Across the border in Hyderabad a few weeks earlier artists and prison inmates from the Cherlapalli Central Jail worked together in a one-day “camp” to create paintings.

Art by inmates from a maximum security prison in Trinidad and Tobago was exhibited recently at a mall in St James, and candle-making programmes are operating at prisons in countries as diverse as India and South Africa.

Sikander Ali Jogi, who teaches art at the Karachi Jail, told IPS News he had seen a marked difference in his students’ behaviour and physical appearance in his two years working at the jail. He attributed the change to art, which he said “brought peace and solace” to the inmates.

The Karachi prisoners produced a wide range of works, from pen sketches to calligraphy, vivid landscapes and portraits in watercolour and oil.

The Trinidad and Tobago exhibition was organised by the local Council of Prison Chaplains and Ministers and the Prisons Service, with materials supplied by the country’s Art Society.

Inmates encouraged to express themselves

Prison Commissioner John Rougier told Newsday the inmates were encouraged to express themselves through art.

“We want inmates to get themselves organised, to develop their talents and make a living out of it. Our mandate is to help them turn their lives around.”

Candle-making is well established in some prisons in South Africa. At the Mangaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein – one of the largest private prisons in the world – 40 maximum classification inmates are taught the gentle art of candle-making each day. Through sales of the candles to prison staff and the public, the inmates also learn the importance of presentation and marketing.

Vocational instructor Yvonne Theron says candle-making is a skill that can be used by those with an entrepreneurial spirit to start their own business with a minimum of resources and finance after their release from custody.

Inmates at the Udhampur District Jail in the Indian province of Jammu produced thousands of candles for the recent Diwali festival of lights.

Jail superintendent Rajni Sehgal told The Statesman the candle programme was “an attempt to make the inmates self-dependent by imparting them soft skills so that after their release they can lead a normal life”.

The candles were bought by people to light up their homes, but to the convicts the candles had a symbolic meaning, she said.

“Despite living in the dark, the jail birds bring light in millions of homes through their candles…”


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