Young in­mates learn how to care for el­derly pris­on­ers

China Daily (Canada) - - TOP NEWS - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@ chi­

Shang­hai prison in­mate Yin Jian, four years into a jail sen­tence for bur­glary, never had a se­ri­ous job be­fore and ne­glected his par­ents, but he now cares for six fel­low in­mates in their 70s and 80s.

Yin de­scribes his daily life as “bustling about”, as two of the el­derly need to be sup­ported when they move around and the oth­ers need help wash­ing or mov­ing heavy ob­jects.

The 35-year-old also needs to keep alert dur­ing the night as he must let the war­den know if an el­derly in­mate re­ports dis­com­fort. It usu­ally hap­pens once or twice a week, he said.

Yin is one of dozens of young and mid­dle-aged in­mates who pro­vide care to el­derly pris­on­ers in Shang­hai Nan­hui Prison, which has been re­ceiv­ing el­derly, sick and hand­i­capped in­mates from around the city since it opened in 2007.

The prison, in the south of Pudong New Area, re­quests the con­sent of a young in­mate and ex­am­ines their back­ground and per­son­al­ity be­fore rec­om­mend­ing them for the job of car­ing for el­derly pris­on­ers. They re­ceive pro­fes­sional train­ing, in­clud­ing the­ory and prac­tice, in pro­vid­ing daily care and first-aid to the el­derly, and ob­tain a State-ap­proved cer­tifi­cate be­fore they be­gin the work, the prison said.

“Some of the el­derly in­mates that I share the room with are un­friendly and not easy to sat­isfy, which re­quires quite a lot of pa­tience and a car­ing heart from me,” Yin, a na­tive of Suin­ing, Sichuan prov­ince, told China Daily ahead of Wed­nes­day’s Dou­ble Ninth Fes­ti­val, a tra­di­tional Chi­nese fes­ti­val that honors the el­derly. “I be­lieve the work will give my per­son­al­ity a good re­mold­ing and it’s my way to re­pent.”

Yin said he once took care of a to­tally par­a­lyzed el­derly in­mate around the clock. Two young in­mates had to co­op­er­ate when they helped him bathe or scrubbed his body.

“I also needed to change his di­a­per once dur­ing the night,” said Yin, ad­ding that the work and cer­tifi­cate may help him find a job as a care worker in a hos­pi­tal after he is dis­charged.

Li Ming, another in­mate pro­vid­ing care to el­derly pris­on­ers, has taken care of Zhang Qiang, 87, for eight years. Li, a na­tive of Chengdu, Sichuan prov­ince, said he can eas­ily un­der­stand the lat­ter’s Shang­hai di­alect.

“Zhang and my fa­ther are of al­most the same age,” Li, 45, said. “Through­out these years I have re­pented much of my guilt about my fa­ther.”

Zhang, who has early stage Alzheimer’s dis­ease, is sched­uled to be dis­charged from prison at the end of this year and Li has started to worry about his daily life after his re­lease.

“His par­ents and sis­ter have passed away and he doesn’t have other rel­a­tives,” Li said. “I be­lieve he is bet­ter taken care of here.”

Apart from the spe­cial care sys­tem for el­derly in­mates, the prison is also equipped with wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble fa­cil­i­ties, lifts, sup­port bars around the rooms, emer­gency call but­tons and air con­di­tion­ers.

“We also ar­range for all the el­derly in­mates to sleep on the lower bunk of the bunk beds, and each of their rooms is equipped with a re­stroom,” said Chen Lisong, vice-gov­er­nor of the prison.

Sil­ver-haired Xiao Hua, 68, has lost more than half his teeth. In jail for fraud since 2008, he said el­derly in­mates are pro­vided with meals suit­able for their health con­di­tions.

“I mainly eat noo­dles with soup be­cause they are softer,” Xiao, from Shang­hai, said. “Some of the oth­ers are also of­fered spe­cial meals, such as low-salt and sugar-free, as they suf­fer from high blood pres­sure or di­a­betes.”

Luo Mei, a 64-year-old in­mate jailed for life for con­tract fraud and il­le­gal business op­er­a­tions in 2008, said she is of­ten moved by the re­spect­ful way guards treat in­mates.

“Very of­ten I feel that they re­gard us as el­derly peo­ple in­stead of pris­on­ers,” said Luo, a na­tive of Bei­jing.

She said she was once scalded by hot wa­ter but didn’t use any medicine be­cause she has al­ler­gies. The next day, a guard brought medicine from her home and told Luo that her fa­ther had used the medicine be­fore and it had worked fairly well.

“I never imag­ined the guards would as­so­ciate us crim­i­nals with their par­ents,” Luo said. “I was choked up with sobs at that mo­ment and couldn’t even say ‘thank you’.”

The in­ci­dent changed her pre­vi­ously neg­a­tive views on re­pen­tance, jail and life, Luo said.

Very of­ten I feel that they re­gard us as el­derly peo­ple in­stead of pris­on­ers.”

The names of the in­mates in this story have been al­tered to pro­tect their iden­ti­ties.

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