Reintegration of vulnerable prisoners through access to education

The Civic Association "Viata Noua" (Engl. „New Life”) - an organization specializing in provision of assistance to drug users and people living with HIV/AIDS has launched in 2015 a unique educational initiative - socio-psychological assistance to most vulnerable prisoners, drug consumers or people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. The support offered consisted of information-sharing sessions, psychological counseling and art therapy. To implement the initiative, the organization negotiated with three penitentiary institutions in creating conditions for conducting meetings and maintained good conduct and positive atmosphere during activities. While each of the meetings gathered 20 to 30 participants every time, the overall number of people who participated in the project runs over 70 persons.

 

The project developers and implementers started from the premise that detention should not become an endpoint and that persons who are imprisoned must be guided to the assessment and recovery of their own lives. For drug users and/or carriers of HIV/AIDS the task of getting back on a positive track is complicated due to health vulnerability, but also due to preconceived attitude of both by incarcerated inmates and people from outside the penitentiary. Efforts of people in this target group, but also of those who assist them are incomparably bigger than other peers in similar situation. Imprisonment does not simplify, but on the contrary amplifies difficulties. The implementing organization has attempted to identify solutions to the full range of issues: identified in cooperation with the administration of penitentiary institutions more or less appropriate spaces for organizing learning meetings, faced interpersonal tensions among participants and changed the structure of the beneficiary groups: they also adjusted the training program, based on real needs and actual conditions of the participants. The most attractive part for the participants was handmade workshops where they could produce art works from a wide variety of materials: leather, metal forging, etc. Besides the fact that art products were publicly exposed in big events such as the annual event to fight against HIV/AIDS, the products were sold and this provided small financial incentives for detained authors.

 

The results of the program have been seen assessed in a very positive manner by beneficiaries; they were pleased even with the establishment of commonly agreed rules for their group work. The degree of self-confidence and firm intention to change was reflected in the photo exhibition "... without barriers" and a brochure with the same title. In this project component 22 beneficiaries of the project agreed to reveal their identities and openly share their life stories.