This Brazilian prison gives inmates the keys to their cells

Brazil is 4th in the world ranking of the prison population. Poor and overcrowded structures and human rights violations hamper the rehabilitation possibilities of inmates. The recidivism rate is around 70%. Among the issues that affect this rate are the lack of education and training. Through European Union support, a project implemented by AVSI Foundation is helping to rehabilitate prisoners in Brazil to prevent them fall back to criminality.

But now the scenario is changing. An inmate is referred to as a recuperando (recovering person). The day starts at 6 am and is organized around work, study and community. It ends at 10 pm, and prisoners return to their cells only to sleep. Jobs are diverse – involving crafts, tending the vegetable garden, baking, carpentry, and kitchen work – and are divided among the prisoners.

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Under the program, prisoners must also study. Some begin the primary education denied to them in their youth, others study at the middle school level, or take vocational or university courses.

In their free time, they play sports or participate in creative arts and attend lectures. Religious instruction is given to those who choose to follow it.

APAC (Association for the Protection and Assistance to the Convicted) prisons are clean and the food is healthy. Everyone is known by name rather than number and there are no drugs or cell phones, and no overcrowding.

With the keys to the prison in their hands, it’s hard to imagine how the APAC system doesn’t have a problem with escapees. when one prisoner was asked why he did not escape, he replied: “Nobody escapes from love”.

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Recidivism ranges between 7% and 20%. The cost to the public purse is one third of that spent in state prisons. No weapons, rebellions or acts of violence have ever been recorded in the system’s history.

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