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Prison Freedom Project: changing lives from the inside

When something comes from the inside it really touches the heart.


Innovate2Empower is a worldwide innovatemovement of innovators in the field of youth in conflict with the law, hosted by Young in Prison International, which consists of five partners in Colombia, Kenya, Malawi, The Netherlands and South Africa, the mission of this movement is to create awareness,  to reduce stigma, and make positive impact on youth in conflict with the law possible. It is one of the pilot of E-Motive Program and it collects local stories that can be shared and can help find solutions to common challenges in different contexts.


When I learnt about Prison Freedom Project as part of Innovate2Empower, a worldwide movement of innovators, I felt inspired and deeply connected with it.

Maybe this happened because I believe that in these hard times we are living in, struggling to find ourselves and to be honest with ourselves, we need something to cling to, a tool to help us clear the mind from negative and self-harming thoughts and to focus on our inner centre.

Yoga is one of these potential tools, and it was for me, it gave me a lot of peace and health. So when I discovered it was being used for healing and rehabilitation, with people living in stressful situations, such as people in prison, I felt a deep connection with the project and its mission.

Hence I got to the conclusion that we all are prisoners of our minds and that the only difference between me and a person living in a prison it is the context in which we were born and raised.

About the project

The Prison Freedom Project, built on the belief that those incarcerated deserve a chance to heal the harm they have caused, gives each inmate a real chance to create a peaceful and meaningful life. Incarcerated men and women need help to heal from unresolved trauma and learn skills for non-violent problem resolution.

Prison Freedom Project activities include volunteer-lead yoga classes, distributing yoga manuals and course materials and mentoring inmates who are enrolled on the course through letter writing.

This is one of the letters a mentor received, it expresses gratitude and I find it is a manifest proof of the changing impact of this method:

I felt depressed and angry at everything and everyone. I did not know that the mind is capable to change from negative to positive with just a few easy breathings and at the same time the body and spirit can become one with just a few easy poses. But after I started with this yoga course I felt the changes throughout my whole body. Although I struggled with the plough pose and the breathing at first, after a few times of trying I finally got it right. Now I have a whole new outlook on life. I thank you Prison Freedom Project for setting me free from my own mental prison.
– Graham, Brandvlei Max

The documentary

Free Inside is a 12 min documentary set in the heart of the Mother City at Pollsmoor Correctional Services, exploring yoga and its power to set one free. This film gives insight into the powerful personal stories of transformation happening behind bars. For information about the SevaUnite's Prison Freedom Project:

The project is changing peoples lives from the inside. True freedom is an inside job.

Raffaella Toticchi
Somos Más Europa/ E-Motive
July 2015