Weird and wonderful schemes to shorten prison sentences

Kyla Herrmannsen

As a safer alternative to breaking out of prison illegally, there are many traditional ways in which offenders can shave time of their sentences – such as good behaviour and participation in prison-run rehabilitation projects.

Aside from the traditional options, there are a few weird and wonderful schemes offered to offenders worldwide.

The options span from yoga to cycling to reading. In Thailand you can even box your way to freedom.

Read more below:

Indian inmates take yoga classes to reduce jail time

“Prison officials in Madhya Pradesh, in central India, have launched a new scheme which will grant inmates reductions on their sentences if they complete a three-month course.

For every three months each prisoner spends performing sun salutations, down dog stretches, pranayam heavy breathing exercises and chanting “Om”, his or her release date will be brought forward by 36 days.

According to prison officials at Gwalior Jail, 400 prisoners are now taking part in the scheme, and 68 inmates are already set to have their sentences reduced. The prison authorities believe yoga will not only improve their fitness, but make them calmer, less violent and more positive when they are finally released. One prisoner said his anger had subsided since he began practicing yoga, and that he planned to teach the discipline after his release”

Brazil programme sees inmates cycling to freedom

“There’s an innovative program that allows inmates to reduce their sentences in exchange for generating power to help illuminate the town of Santa Rita do Sapucai at night.

By pedaling, the inmates charge a battery that powers 10 street lamps along a riverside promenade. For every three eight-hour days they spend on the bikes, Silva and the program’s other volunteers get one day shaved off their sentences”

A ‘cycling for freedom’ project is run in prisons in Mexico too.

brazil inmates cycling

Brazilian prison reduces sentences for bookworm inmates

“Inmates in Brazil’s overcrowded federal penitentiary system have been given the chance to shave up to 48 days a year off their sentences by reading books.

For every book a prisoner reads they will see their sentence reduced by four days, however no skim reading is allowed as they must follow this up with an essay demonstrating an understanding of what they have read”


Reading for Redemption in South Africa

The Reading for Redemption campaign was also recently launched in South Africa, after Correctional Services Minister, Sibusiso Ndebele, visited Brazil to learn more about how they pioneered and run the project.

Watch a video of the launch here

Bangkok prisoners in fights for their lives

“Hardened Thai prisoners were pitted against free fighters in Muay Thai and traditional boxing. The winners were fighting for cash but prisoner’s also had the chance to win freedom.

Inmates that win a championship have a shot at having their sentences commuted, according organisers Prison Fight.

Prison Fight brands itself as a charity organization and its fights as charity events.

The organiser said regardless of the enormity of their crime, every prisoner had a chance to have their sentence cut. But he also said the prisoners were judged on their behaviour outside of the ring.

The tournaments are supposed to promote sport among prisoners and help them stop taking drugs so they are more socially apt upon release.”




About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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