BENGALURU: Sitting in a circle in a classroom are killers and rapists, drug dealers and drug users, men who stole from others and men who beat their wives — their crimes are likely to be considered unforgivable by many. But in this class, called ‘The Nature of Forgiveness’, inmates are learning the meaning of forgiveness.
These workshops on ‘teaching the art of forgiveness’, are being conducted by psychologists and counsellors who visit Bangalore Central Jail in Parappana Agrahara. These workshops are conducted for three hours, once almost every 15 days, inside the prison.
Counsellors who visited the facility from several NGOs felt there was a need to create a space for healing where prisoners can live a forgiven life. “We have seen that compassion and forgiveness can reduce violence significantly. Over the years, I have worked with many men and women who have committed extreme acts of violence, and who are now living in relative peace as they pursue their ongoing transformation,” said a 53-year-old counsellor who visits Parappana Agrahara regularly.
Counsellors from NGOs who visit the prisons and even in-house psychologists say this exercise has benefitted many prisoners. “As part of this workshop, which is conducted separately for women and male prisoners, they are made to sit in a circle. They are taught some techniques of forgiveness via group activities. A lot of sharing happens in these sessions,” explained Nanditha G (name changed), a counsellor. She added that forgiveness requires deep thought about the past.
“There is a lot of guilt about their criminal acts. There are many who would have committed crimes in a jiffy. Sometimes, they end up justifying their act and hold grudges against the other person involved in the crime. In such cases, the act of learning how to let go and forgive, helps a lot. Jail authorities say there are very few instructions given in this class. Role playing sessions where the accused becomes the victim and expresses his/her helplessness that could have led to the crime or seeks forgiveness from someone else are conducted.
In ‘circle time’, everyone talks about their feelings regarding their crimes. “Each one is asked to respect each other in the group. They have to listen without judgement. There is group dialogue, journal writing and meditation too,” said a senior prison official. Kuppanna S, who was released last April, speaks high about this workshop. He told City Express, “I had killed a man in a group clash and was in prisons for seven years. I spent so many years there and was finally released for good conduct. This workshop helped me forgive myself and also a few people in my village, who I believed were responsible for me to commit the murder.”
“We conduct such programmes so that prisoners know that they are like any other human being. Everyone commits mistakes, it is he who accepts, forgives and forgets who becomes great. Holistic healing will help them heal completely and release their guilt,” said N S Megharikh, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Prisons.