Chinese prison psychodramas help rehabilitate convicts

Updated 2017-08-03 12:36:45 Xinhua

Once, twice, three times, Xu Dongguang keeps practicing his lines until he gets them just right. He want this psychodrama to hit home.

"This is the second time I have acted the leading role in a play," Xu said. "I put my whole feeling into it."

After the performance, the play "A Letter from Home," moves most of the audience to tears.

But Xu is not a regular thespian treading the boards for fame. He is a prisoner at Luquan Prison in Shijiazhuang, capital of north China's Hebei Province.

As part of the country's judicial reform efforts, China's prisons have introduced psychotherapy to help correct prisoner behavior and rehabilitate them

Psychodrama is just one of the therapies being adopted by prisons across the country. Different from traditional psychological interventions, such as counseling and music therapy, psychodrama can help treat a large group of prisoners all at once.

Through psychodrama, prisoners act out situations as a group to perform their own stories, helping them understand and examine their emotions.

Luquan Prison held its first psychodrama performance in 2016.

Xu said that he and the other prisoners were mainly interested in psychodramas with themes of family affection.

"Prisoners were so active when participating in the performance," said Miao Yi, the prison warden.

Prison conditions are changing in China, with mental well-being being paid more consideration.

"Prisoners have paid high attention to their own mental health in recent years," said Feng Feng, a psychological counselor at the prison. "Psychodramas work well in the prison."

Feng said that through the practice and performance of psychodramas prisoners are able to review their past experience, learn the truth and create hope for the future.

Cui Chao, a police officer at the prison, liked writing plays when he was a college student. His talent makes him popular in the prison.

"I wrote a story of a prisoner, Zhang Xiaodong, in July. I invited him to perform in the psychodrama but he initially refused," Cui said. "After the debut of the play, Zhang asked me to allow him to act himself in it next time."

So far, 16 psychodramas have been performed in Luquan Prison this year, with 129 prisoners participating.

The prisoners are awarded bonuses from 500 yuan (74.3 U.S. dollars) to 1,000 yuan for taking part.

Xu Dongguang earned 1,000 yuan for his excellent performances.

"I am glad to share my psychological problems with others with the performance, which can help cure my inner trauma," Xu said. "Sometimes, I think I may have a chance to start all over again."

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