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This Indian Prison Is Changing Lives

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East West Center
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Bhondsi Jail (Gurgaon) opens its doors to reporters to show off a model vocational program. WVXU's Ann Thompson is in the middle of the picture.

Bhondsi Jail, southwest of New Delhi, is celebrating the success of its vocational training and is being held up as an example to all of India showing how prisoners can be rehabilitated on their own terms. WVXU and other media were granted access recently.

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Credit East West Center
India Vision Foundation Director Monica Dhawan. The NGO supports the program which teaches inmates skills.

It's easy to see how Director of the India Vision Foundation Monica Dhawan's enthusiasm helped change what once was an ordinary jail into a place where inmates do yoga, garden, play sports and celebrate festivals.

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Credit East West Center
Prison Superintendent Harinder Singh (second from left) checks the progress of a tree planting effort on the jail's property.

Dhawan says the 2,360 (2,300 men and 60 women) prisoners are healthier and happier. "Their energy is channeled in better ways." It also helps to pass the time. Eighty-percent of them  are waiting for their cases to be heard in court.

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Credit provided
Reporters tour the Bhondsi Jail, including WVXU's Ann Thompson in the back row. This article appeared in a newspaper in India.

On September 10, 2016 the jail opened its doors to international reporters attending the East West Media Conference, including WVXU, for a rare behind-the-scenes tour. This was apparently so unusual that New Delhi media covered the event.

The India Vision Foundation and partners like G4S pay for vocational training at the prison. Many of the areas are geared to women who can easily start a business out of their homes using these skills:

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Credit East West Center
The Singer Sewing Company provides the sewing machines at a discount for this certified class. Sewing classes are offered to both men and women.

  1. Chocolate making
  2. Sewing (sponsored by Singer)
  3. Hairdressing
  4. Art (pottery, sculpting, painting)
  5. Dancing
  6. Music
  7. Henna Tattoos
  8. Computer training
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    Credit East West Center
    Children of inmates can stay at the jail until age six when they are transferred to a partner school.

The foundation is also concerned about children of the female inmates. There is an on-site school and nursery where children can be with the mothers until age six. After that they go to another school under the watchful eye of organizers.
The India Vision Foundation would like to know how great an impact the jail's programs have had on former prisoners. It is looking for a partner to research it. The success of this program is already spreading to other jails in India. Dhawan agrees now might be the time to market this concept.

One example of success: Amit Kumar Mishra served thirteen months and developed a computer program that digitized the prison data. His program is now considered one of the best in the country. His software company employs 55 people, some of them former inmates at the Bhondsi Jail.

The India Vision Foundation says if you can keep prisoners engaged with something they enjoy their energy is channeled in better ways.

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Credit East West Center
These prisoners are making music and hope to form a band.