Healthy Prison Route giving inmates a path back to society
AT THE AGE of 21, university student Peung found her life turned upside down after taking part-time jobs a few years ago.
“My friend recommended these jobs, saying that I would be paid between Bt1,000 and Bt2,000 a day,” says Peung (not her real name) from Ubon Ratchathani Prison.
Surprised but tempted by the good pay, she agreed to take parcels to a post office for delivery. Less than a month later, while on her fourth assignment, she was arrested and charged with drug trafficking.
“Inside the beautiful parcels was not soap [as I was told] but bars of marijuana,” Peung explains, trying to laugh off her past mistake but with tears welling in her eyes.
With eight kilos of marijuana found in her possession, she was sentenced to nine years in jail. The court agreed to halve her term because of her confession. She appealed and the penalty was reduced further to four years.
She has now been behind bars for seven months, with a long time still to go.
But thanks to the Healthy Prison Route at the Ubon jail, Peung has managed to cling on to her optimism and tried her best to learn lessons from her past.
“Before going to bed, I reflect on what I have done. Eventually I saw clearly that I landed up in jail because I didn’t listen to my mum and wasn’t happy with what I had.”
Peung admits her family was not financially poor and, even after her father’s death, she still received an allowance to cover her daily expenses and education.
“But I overspent. I wanted to buy fitness courses to lose weight. I wanted new clothes to dress up,” she says.
When she asked for more money, her mother – a teacher – complained. Fed up with nagging, Peung thought it would be a good idea to take part-time jobs like some of her friends, who seemed to enjoy a good income.
“Had I learned to suppress my unreasonable desires and listened to my mum, I would still be sleeping in my air-conditioned bedroom at home,” she says.
Peung has a straightforward message for other youngsters like her: never ignore the good wishes and guidance of your parents.
Like many of her fellow inmates, Peung says she had learnt a lesson and is determined to stay on the right side of the law.
“After completing my time in jail, I hope I get the opportunities to return to a normal life. I want to sell vintage clothes and perhaps teach yoga.”
Every day, Peung practises yoga behind bars and believes her skills will have developed by the time she walks out a free woman.
“Yoga is good for both physical health and for the mind,” she says. “Yoga has given me a new life. I am calmer, more patient and more optimistic.”
The Healthy Prison Route concept, which focuses on building a caring community at correctional facilities, has now been implemented at the Ratchaburi, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani prisons.
The concept seeks to ensure inmates enjoy physical and emotional well-being, and can return to the society as “quality citizens”.