“I started my training in a Paris penitentiary,” says Iranpour, “where I was immediately inspired by the work and its approach to rehabilitation, trauma relief and general care. All the other approaches to rehabilitation are valid, but they only address part of the spectrum, while Prison Smart addressed the missing link by focusing on making people self-reliant.”
Iranpour recounts: “One of the inmates at Shrassig told me, ‘I am really proud of myself, for taking such a programme and learning something of value.’ It gives them an incredible sense of self trust, esteem and security. An ex-prisoner in the UK, who is now a criminologist put it this way: ‘There was one person I never expected to meet in prison, and that was myself’.”
The scheme reduces recidivism and even gives hope to inmates serving life sentences. “It allows them to let go of accumulated stress and trauma,” she says. So, what’s the magic pill? “Breath work and meditation help them to experience a deep state of peace and calm, sometimes for the very first time. And they are taught tools to know how to tap into their own inner peace themselves. It helps them break what is at the core of their struggles, to break the cycle of repetitive destructive behaviour.”
Prison Smart is not just for inmates; it’s also for crime victims, families of perpetrators and victims, prison staff, social workers and lawyers. In addition, it is being used in war zones and with refugees suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, grief and fear.
Nicolai Englebrecht, a Prison Smart trainer, in a still image from the 2014 documentary “Bad Boy Breathing”
Iranpour herself was a lawyer, and the trainers she brought here have both been on the wrong side of the law. Giorgio Minneci, who led the first course, is one of the most experienced Prison Smart leaders in the world and one of the only ones working with sex offenders and mafia members.
Nicolai Englebrecht, who was here in April, was the subject of the documentary “Bad Boy Breathing”, which followed him from his gang member past in Denmark to his Prison Smart trainer present. “I once met a guy who said that it would be easier for him to put a gun in someone else’s mouth than to sit silently for five minutes. What we teach is simple, but profound,” he says.
Change can and does happen, quickly, but Prison Smart then provides weekly follow-up. Iranpour, a striking young woman, goes into Schrassig alone to meet with ‘alumni’. “It can be challenging,” she smiles. “But I do the practice myself. I’m strong.”
Whether Prison Smart will continue to be offered in Luxembourg depends now on the government. They can easily find endorsements--in jail or online--from the thousands of people who have been through the programme.