The Human Rights Office Kandy Organized a workshop for the prison families. It was held at Fatima Retreat House Lewella Kandy recently, with two ex-prisoners and 30 prison family members participating in the 03 day workshop. The prisoner families were mainly composed of Political prisoners who are still being detained.
The word “Prison” comes from Latin carcer. When a person is incarcerated, a manifestation of survival occurs that one has to “adjust” to the climate. “Adjustment” is part of the manifestation. With this manifestation, it causes an incarcerated person to be, if he so happens to manifest, labeled as having a ‘prison mentality’ or to be ‘institutionalized’. At the onset of the workshop we found the family members feeling heavy with tension and stress, sadness, anger and revengeful thoughts and feelings, a typical reflection of the imprisoned mentality. The focus of the workshop was to empower the family members by strengthening the coping skills they are endowed with.
The complete workshop made use of drama therapy techniques such as narra-drama, story-telling, doubling, role-reversal, empty chair and role playing. Also miniature wooden figures were used to enable the participants to build their story through a spectrogram; to visualize how they faced their problems and what changes are required in their lives.
The session started with a game at warm-up phase to help the participants to understand the nature of their mind set being caught up in imprisoned mentality. They were asked to build a circle which is metaphoric of ‘mind’ according to Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, and they understood that the mind is another prison from which one cannot easily escape. They found that all fears and sorrows are results of the strong attachments that demonically disturb them.
The movements and scripted scenes helped the participants assimilate with characters related to the issue. It was a turning point slowly changed their outlook and their behavior dramatically distancing them from their anxiety, pain, and their irresistible demand of their cry to get their husbands and sons released.
The participants took part in an active exploration of their problematic areas though role plays and dramatic forms. In the process of role playing and role reversal the participants learned to perceive their problems from another point of view.
Cooperation among players in discovering, devising and acting out their own conflicts further enhanced the process of their own values and their ability to contain, daring, which in turn make the imprisoned loved ones develop a sense of values in the process of doing discovery.
They discovered a felt meaning in performing rituals for the benefit of their loved ones in prisons. Objects like stones, coconuts, and tree leaves were symbolically employed as part of a Ritual that helped the participants to relieve of their trauma. The whole atmosphere breathed a breath of optimistic relief when the performance of sacred wishful ritual was over.
At the closure there was a personal in-depth sharing and a reflection portraying their understanding ….
that “We are all prisoners, but some of us are in cells with windows and some without.” ― Khalil Gibran
The focus of the 2014 Christmas was the “PTA detainees” in remand Prison. A special Christmas programme was held on the 19th December 2014 at the Bogambara - Dumbara prison from 10.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. with Carols, dances and giving away gifts by the Santa Claus to all the prisoners. HRO focused its Christmas message on the prisoners who are in detention for long years without trials.
The Christmas day mass at the Dumbara prison was celebrated by Bishop Vianney Fernando. After mass the Bishop had a cordial meeting with the Superintendent of the Prison Mr. Senarath Bandara Senanayake at his office. The HRO also organized the political prisoners - PTA detainees ,to meet with the Bishop and the prisoners thanked the Bishop for his interventions through the HRO to bring them to trial. They requested the Bishop to appeal to the Holy Father during his visit to Sri Lanka to request the President to grant a general amnesty. The Bishop offered hope to the young political prisoners and the SP explained the issue with over crowdedness in the prison caused by the undue delay in trials.
The Human Rights office in Kandy provides legal, medical and psychological assistance to these detainees since 2008 and assist their families. With the intervention of the HRO lawyers, several political prisoners were released during the last few years, however there are several of them still to be tried in court. They Hope with the visit of the Holy father and the new political climate that they would see the light of the day beyond the prison walls.