How to Start Programs in Prison
S.S. Mukta Kaur Khalsa, Espanola NM, U.S.A.
In 1973, I began as a volunteer at the Safford Federal Prison in Safford, AZ, a minimum security facility with about 850 inmates. Here inmates were introduced to the teachings of 3HO and Sikh Dharma through weekly classes.
Within the year, I began teaching at the local Pima County Jail in Tucson, AZ, as part of the 3HO SuperHealth drug rehabilitation outreach program. Inmates were educated about drug abuse and its problems, plus gained some insight into how they could be helped. Upon release from prison, inmates could apply to enter the SuperHealth program.
The prison system administration was favorably impressed by the positive effects of the classes on inmates. I was placed on the Disciplinary Committee of a prison, which was made up of its administration personnel. Prison rule violations were reviewed by this committee, and decisions made on what disciplinary actions to take.
We had been offering an orientation class as an option for new inmates. This evolved into becoming a required class for all new inmates. It covered yoga, meditation, diet, values, and everything that we represent and we taught. In one prison, I was asked to create a vegetarian menu option for inmates.
It wasn’t long before I was asked to be a part of the Staff Development Team. Then, through our work with drug rehabilitation, I became a member of the Arizona Probation and Parole Department whose members were professionals affiliated with corrections. The latter created great inroads into the prison system and helped us expand our programs. I was invited to numerous conferences to present seminars and workshops on how the technology of 3HO and Sikh Dharma could benefit the inmates and staff.
Ultimately, Sikh Dharma was funded by the Arizona Department of Corrections, first through their Religion Department and later the counseling, psychological section, to work with inmates in any of the penal institutions in Arizona. This included maximum, medium, and minimum security prisons. The budget had a provision for tapes, books, Yogi Bhajan teachings on men, diet information, and videos; these were very welcomed by the inmates. Still today, Sikh Dharma has a contract for a full time position in the Arizona state prison system.
Thousands of inmates have been effected by our programs. Time is a commodity that is in abundance and many seriously practiced the teachings. Lives were deeply and profoundly impacted, especially for those who found their way into the 3HO SuperHealth program and lived with us. Many wrote the Siri Singh Sahib and asked for a spiritual name. In life it is always destiny or fate. I believe that our programs have helped many walk toward their destiny.