for The Hindu on Dec. 21, 2011
Bhakti Vinoda Swami presenting a copy of Bhagavad Gita to a prisoner at the Coimbatore Central Prison.
Prisons are not centres of punishment but places for reformation.
As many as 500 inmates of the Coimbatore Central Prison were presented with copies of the Bhagavad Gita with the help of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Copies of the books were handed over by District Collector M. Karunagaran at a function held at the prison premises on Saturday.
Superintendent of Central Prison A. Murugesan said that not all prisoners are hardcore criminals who have taken to crime as their career. Majority of them were victim of circumstances who end up committing an offence in a fit of rage or due to compelling situations in life. Prisons are not centres of punishment but they are places for reformation. Indian Jurisprudence believes in giving the prisoner a chance to reform.
Prisoners never spend their term idle in prison, they take up jobs to learn vocational skills to earn their livelihood on discharge from prison, and the skills acquired come handy for them to overcome the societal stigma against prisoners.
In addition, yoga and meditation are also taught to the prison inmates to prevent an idle mind from becoming a devil's workshop. In addition, good thoughts and good deeds can help prisoners overcome their problems and stress. Already, the prison has a session for listening to Thirukkural couplets every day and many prisoners are getting educated and there are prisoners who are appearing for examinations from eighth standard to even degree programmes. Towards this direction of educating, enlightening and reforming the inmates, the prison administration in association with ISKCON distributed copies of “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” to the inmates, both in Tamil and English. Reading the book will help the inmates in realising the meaning of peace, forgiveness and love.
Bhakti Vinoda Swami, Zonal Secretary, ISKCON stressed the need for educating people, especially youth, in order to build a morally and ethically sound society. Distributing the books, Mr. Karunakaran said that inmates should know how to control their negative thoughts and added that reading good books would help them shape themselves as the better part of society.