Thanks To This Psychologist Repeat Offenders Reduced From 80% To 1 % In Eleven Telangana Jails

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There was a time when Prasant (name changed) was dreaded by everyone in his locality. He has been in and out of the prison more than once on charges of bank robbery, till the prison authorities got him enrolled in the rehabilitation programme Unnati, conducted by psychologist Prof Beena Chintalapuri. The cognitive reformation initiative has transformed Prasant into a completely new person, who has just received his first paycheck at a day job and is willing to open a bank account like a free citizen. He falls short of words to express his gratitude towards Beena Chintalapuri, who was selected as an Ashoka Fellow in 2017, for her extraordinary work in bringing down the number of recidivists (repeat offenders) from 80% to 1%.

Beena Chintalapuri describes how the mindset of small-time criminals are shaped by their surrounding environment, and how her organisation, Unnati, is transforming their mindset to dream in positive colours.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

Who are the repeat offenders?

“The general trend in most prisons show a higher proportion of repeat offenders. These are mostly petty criminals with records of theft, robbery, looting, property offence, drug dealing etc. The prison registers revealed that these prisoners were mostly young men, who would go out on bail, commit similar crimes and return to jail. For many, this pattern had almost turned into a routine,” narrates Beena. These prisoners generally serve short sentences between three months to three years.

  1. Due to an increased number of recidivists, there has been a 74% increase in the prison population.
  2. Overcrowded prisons are affected by unhygienic living conditions, which has resulted in the death of around 12000 prisoners in five years

Most of them were addicts who spent the money on alcohol or drugs. A considerable percentage of them belonged to low-income and less educated background, where the unhealthy environment was not conducive to help these directionless youngsters focus on a bright future.

After their release, many of these people are ostracised by their families or neighbours. They fail to regain their old jobs or businesses. People start branding them as ‘prisoners’, driving them to the path of crime again.

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The need for Unnati in Telangana Jails

When Beena was approached by the Director-General of Prisons, Telangana, to help in the rehabilitation of the prisoners, he specifically asked her to target the recidivists, who were turning out to be an uncontrollable menace. “Life convicts usually get reformed since they spend a prolonged time in prison. But, these recidivists with short jail terms were harder to tackle,” explains Beena. After interacting with them, she analysed their personalities closely to devise a detailed series of modules, targetting the common negative aspects of their behaviour.

“Most of them had wronged under peer pressure, the influence of alcohol and drugs or in a fit of rage. Many belonged to loving families, but the parents being illiterate, failed to propel the child towards a good career,” she informs. She knew that mere advice would fall to deaf ears. Hence, she made everyone narrate their experience in front of others in the batch, and prodded them to reflect and understand the darker nuances of each story. “That was how we attempted to change their thought process and perception of a crime,” she adds.

Started in 2015, the Unnati project has been launched across eleven prisons in Telangana, changing the lives of around four thousand prisoners.

Where are they now?

Most of the rehabilitated prisoners want to resume their old jobs or businesses and for others, the prison administration extends all possible support. Many of them who are out on parole were given employment at petrol pumps and gas stations.

“If I had not joined Unnati, I might have remained a monster and committed more murders out of revenge,” shares one of the rehabilitated.

One convict, who has served a long-term sentence, reveals, “When I first came in here on a murder charge, I felt burning rage that provoked me to think of shooting everyone. The training helped me let go of that toxic rage, and I can vouch that I will never be tempted to touch a gun again.”

Over a hundred former prisoners attended the recent conclave of Unnati, only to express their heartfelt gratitude.

A few days ago, Beena received a wedding invitation from one of them, who used to be an infamous goon. “I will have a lovely wife and a new family now, I am never again walking down the dark road,” Beena recalls him promising.

How Unnati achieved the impossible

Unnati is quite different from the regular rehabilitation programmes practised at most prisons in the country. Here the primary motto is to help the repeat offenders reset their life views, to transform anti-social tendencies into optimistic life goals. “They should start dreaming fresh dreams,” expresses Beena.

One of their highly effective exercises include the interactive sessions with life convicts. The inmates who have the potential to positively influence others, are identified and are trained to be volunteers. They describe how a moment’s mistake had robbed their lives of everything they treasured. Their narratives about the hardships of prison life, the trauma of their families, the pining wish to change the past and the guilty conscience that erodes their souls – these motivate the young offenders a lot. “It’s a beautiful life out of these iron bars. Do not come back here,” the life convicts plead the youngsters.

In their addiction prevention classes, Unnati trainers ask the prisoners to calculate the amount of money they had spent on alcohol or drugs, which mostly turn out to be a large figure. Next, the prisoners are asked to share how they would have spent this money productively. “This automatically inspires them to lead a cleaner, healthier life,” she explains. Another training module addresses the common emotions a prisoner faces – ranging from anger to guilt and even depression.

The volunteers also meet up with the families and request them to stop ostracising their own boys after release. “We make them realise the power of positive support from family, and the response has been wonderful so far,” she shares.

Prof Beena Chintalapuri has also been approached to start a reformation programme for juvenile homes.

It is perhaps easier to advise a criminal about right and wrong, but it is a herculean task to bring a change in their mindset. With her exceptional skills, Prof Beena Chintalapuri has achieved that impossible.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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