TO FORGIVE AND TO ACCEPT THEIR OWN SITUATION IS SEEN AS THE MOST DIFFICULT
(translation of an article that appeared in the Surabaya Post 22 March 2012)
Giving out motivation until the heart is touched has often been offered to the public.It is a d ifferent matter when these hearts that are being touched belong to offending criminals in remand prison waiting for their trial
By Bayu Putra
The clock at the Mapolda Jatim Remand Prison shows 16.00hr
All prisoners exited their cells. Not to protest in a demonstration, nor to go home.
Instead they sat cross-legged in orderly rows along the corridor of the prison’s main room.
Soon after, the Pembimbing Pelatihan Hati or Heart Exercise Guides, arrive.
Using a small microphone, Nurlaita lead them to close their eyes. Then, still sitting cross-legged, each person’s hands, with its palms facing up was placed on the knees. After they became relaxed, Nur asked them to touch their heart (centre of the chest) with their right hand.
While still keeping their eyes closed, the prisoners were asked to say ‘thank you’ from their heart without words. Nur explains about being grateful. “If we are ill today, be grateful, because we have been healthy for decades before”, she told them.
Then, prisoners were asked to mention any blessing that they have ever felt. They are to say it inside their heart only, without using words. They were also taught to accept their situation that has brought them to prison. They were asked not to look for someone to blame, but instead to forgive.
Slowly but surely a few male prisoners started to wipe away their tears. A female prisoner started to cry. The session that took about half an hour ended with sincere smiles on the prisoners faces.
Providing spiritual guidance was the idea of Police Commissioner Kompol Heru Prasetyo, the Vice Director of Wadirtahti Remand Prison of Polda Jatim. This guidance has been offered for 6 weeks by the Kelompok Sosialisasi Hati. This is a non profit group that focuses its activities on taking care of the spiritual heart of people.
Nurlaita explained, this program is for exercising the functions of the human heart.
“By birth all human are blessed with heart and feeling. Yet since they were very young they were taught to use their brain rather than their feeling” said this 63 year old woman.
Research on the heart shows that using the heart can improve one’s quality of life. Peoples mental quality of life is reduced in prison because of their status and because of the environment. Therefore this trial program is being offered to prisoners
The program comprises 8 45 minute meetings on Wednesday afternoons. First prisoners are introduced to the way the brain and the heart work and experience the basic difference between them.
“On average, our deeds are based on the commands of the brain that are against the voice of the heart. However, because of the habit of using the brain, the heart closes”, she said.
At every meeting, each prisoner always seated in a relaxed position. Sitting cross-legged, leaning against the wall with eyes closed. Then they speak not with their lips, but with the heart. Like yoga exercise, but with emphasis on the communication side between prisoner and The Creator.
After introducing the function of heart and brain, they are taught to smile from the heart. In the beginning it is not easy to do this. There are prisoners who sneered at this exercise. “How could we ever smile in these conditions?” said Nurlaita impersonating a prisoner.
After few times practicing, without noticing it, this prisoner’s smile changed into a wider smile. This smile became more sincere and natural looking. They get the understanding that, every time a problem arises, they have the choice between smiling or getting annoyed. Of course they chose smiling.
The program is then continued with practicing to pray with the heart. Prisoners are taught the habit of saying prayers without raising up hands and without words. Exercise is continued with cleansing the heart from prejudices. Then talking and moving while using the heart. In this session prisoners are taught to greet each other, initiated by a smile. Afterwards, exercising gratefulness, and completed with the surrendering of burdens.
These regular sessions seemed to achieve great results, not the least on the prisoners. “The old tradition of the prisoner room has now gone” unveiled a male prisoner, let us call him Andri, who is there on a case of drug dealing.
The old tradition here is the division into castes. Small fries will automatically mix with small fries, big criminals with big criminals. This caste system is like an unwritten law within the prison.
Also, a habit of forming gangs, of fighting between inmates and other bad habits. “Once I had to stop 2 inmates fighting before morning prayer. I sat them both and explained to them that their behaviour may prolong their stay” said this narcotic recidivist.
Not only taking away bad habits, these sessions are causing a number of new good traditions to appear, too. They love to isolate themselves. Isolating themselves to go praying, or chanting God’s praises. Group activities are still held, but not as extreme as before the program was introduced.
“Clearly, after Heart exercises came to place, prisoners are not feeling so stuck because of imprisonment”. Generally they confess trying to set off again. Because, they are confident there is room for repentance and not re-offending. “These programs should be taught in other areas too such as polsek and polres areas”.
This statement is agreed by another prisoner, Anita (not her real name). Detained for indecency charges, she confessed that prayers are becoming more peaceful than before the sessions were introduced. “Up to now my prayers are only out of duty. Only now I found out there are greater benefits,” she said.
Sessions also improve solidarity among prisoners. Now food brought in during visiting hours will be shared. Before, the recipient would eat and finished it all by himself. Or if he is a small [criminal], his food would be taken off him by the bigger [criminal].
On Tuesday (20/3) there were three prisoners being transferred (to another judicial area from Polda Jatim), now that the sum of their case is pronounced complete. The moment that they were being moved, an unusual sight appear in the prison room of Mapolda Jatim.
The leaving of the three prisoners now is accompanied by crying of a number of other prisoners, as if saying goodbye to a best friend going far away. “We now are already as one” said one of the prisoners. For the first time also, there is a start of a new habit of saying goodbye to every prisoner.
Heru explained, usually if there is a transfer, they would only say goodbye to their cellmate. After the program was introduced, the person leaving is saying goodbye to everyone in the room. “Also without crying like just now”, he said.
This scene that can be seen as over the top by some seemed to actually have real meaning to the prisoners.
Changes in the prison have also affected the police guard. Prisoners are now more friendly and polite to the guards. Beforehand, they only reply if being asked. Prison cells are also cleaner. “In essence, they now are more disciplined”
There are additions to the program made by Dittahti Polda Jatim, one being yasinan, the reading of a chapter of the Koran meant for a dying person, on Monday nights.
Moslem prisoners enthusiastically join in when these not compulsory sessions were introduced. Some more able prisoners would donate extra snacks to that already provided.
Heru added, initially this prison only wanted to take apathy away from prisoners. Then the idea arises of a program that includes the outside world. It showed that these sessions have brought unexpected effects. From being just intended to fill an emptiness, now this program has become the most awaited for by prisoners.
According to Heru, there are plans to make this program a permanent one. Because, Mapolda Jatim prison cells will always be filled with newcomers, the longest stay for a prisoner being 2 months. The program will be repeated once the curriculum is finished. “It is as if they are still enthusiastic”, he said.
With these sessions, they hope the prisoners will be more accepting of their punishment and not to re-offend or to misconduct while being imprisoned. Adding “Admittedly, potentially we have more prison fights and prison escapes at this Police prison than at the Lapas (prisons under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice)