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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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Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
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Supporting Education Of COVID Hit Students

19,200 Raised
Out of 20,00,000

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Supporting Acid Attack Survivors During COVID

26,651 Raised
Out of 20,00,000

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Providing Clothes To Tribal Children

1,11,860 Raised
Out of 9,00,000

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Back To School : Supporting Rural Education

28,631 Raised
Out of 15,00,000

Share

Rahat COVID: Relief Work by Goonj

1,04,887 Raised
Out of 10,00,000

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No To Hunger : Free Meals To Underprivileged

5,87,014 Raised
Out of 10,00,000

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Provide Ambulance : Help Them Reach Hospital On Time

3,82,370 Raised
Out of 10,00,000

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Support Pranitha To Donate Oxygen And Ration Kits

8,35,618 Raised
Out of 10,00,000

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Project Annapoorna : Become A Hunger Warrior

7,582 Raised
Out of 1,50,000

Share

The Stray Project : A Thought Of Humanity

41,094 Raised
Out of 2,50,000

Share

Ended

Stand By Ladakh

40,962 Raised
Out of 1,00,000

Share

Closed

Support our Frontline COVID Warriors

25,615 Raised
Out of 5,00,000

Share

KHAANACHAHIYE: Fighting Hunger In COVID19

97,02,146 Raised
Out of 1,00,00,000

Share

Campaign Closed
Brought machinery

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,544 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

9 Happy Fridges Installed
Ordered a minivan and sent for modification

Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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Quote
It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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