ASCARI SENEVIRATNE

“My goal is to work towards making the prison system a better place. I live by the philosophy my grandfather taught me to do one good turn a day. I think that is a good way to start helping society.”

Society often ostracize anyone who has been to prison, regardless of the severity of the crime they had committed. Most prisoners find it difficult to reintegrate into society as the community looks at them with suspicion, leaving them feeling very vulnerable and insecure and often returning to petty crime due to their inability to find gainful employment.

Having had a run with the police himself once and having had to deal with the legal system for over two years during the hearing of a court case, Ascari Seneviratne realized that in most instances, those who end up in jail and spend years trapped behind bars, are those who are marginalized and poor.

Seeing this, Ascari approached a former Superintendent of Police (SP) at the Negombo prison and sought his advice on how to help prisoners. This is when he found out that 95% of the inmates are sentenced to prison terms because they don’t have lawyers to argue their case or any proper legal guidance. This was the beginning of the now ongoing commitment he has made to assist this segment of society.

Ascari saw that he himself was at risk of being ostracized from society for his unwillingness to stop helping the marginalized. He strongly believes that society in general can’t see beyond the crime these inmates have committed and are reluctant to help them or anyone helping an inmate. He also advocates that the inmates are people too, sometimes with families and need to be treated with kindness and dignity.

Over the years, Ascari has supported the release over 130 prisoners, convicted of minor crimes and continues his voluntary work towards the welfare of those in prison and even those who he was able to release. He also continues to play an active role in the Prisoner’s Welfare Association and finds ways to improve the lives of prisoners anyway he can.

Years of experience working with prisoners has taught Ascari, that as the time a prisoner spends behind bars increases, the risk of them engaging in a larger more organized crime too increases drastically. He advocates taking a proactive approach, helping the inmates develop a skill that will help them in the future and teaching them skills to match or enhance their current level of education.

He is confident that if the inmates learn a skill, they could use that skill to find gainful employment, reducing the chances of them returning to petty crime to make ends meet.

Ascari confesses he considers himself a master of all trades but loves restoring old cars the most. However, helping the needy is what makes him the happiest. He is determined not to stop the voluntary work he does for prisoners regardless of the reprove and threats he had received. “In spite of all the trouble I must face, I will continue to help prisoners in every way I can. My goal is to work towards making the prison system a better place. I live by the philosophy my grandfather taught me to do one good turn a day. I think that is a good way to start helping society.”