Prisoners to have brighter future with help of service organization
IF former inmates of Shanghai Juvenile Reformatory — home to both juvenile prisoners and some women — are to get new lives on release, they will need both skills and opportunities, and that’s where local businesses come in.
Yesterday, the reformatory signed a cooperation agreement with China Council of Lions Clubs’ local branch, a volunteer service organization, to allow inmates to take a variety of classes and perhaps work in related fields. The skills include fashion design, baking and ceramics.
Two women who will soon leave the reformatory already have contracts to become apprentice bakers.
“More than just getting a job, I wanted to learn something which can help me better care for my family,” said Meng, one of the two. The 46-year-old, in prison for four years, will be released in three days. She said her daughter is now in her 20s and she may soon have a grandchild. “I must do my best for any future baby,” she said.
“I was so worried that no one would employ me because of my criminal record. This opportunity helps a lot,” she said.
The other, Lu, 36, has the same worries. “I knew it would be very difficult to find a job and as my release date approached, I got more afraid,” she told Shanghai Daily.
“Now the company which is going to recruit me knows my past and I don’t have to conceal anything. That can help me back into society.” She will leave the reformatory next week.
For juveniles, the Lions are offering training. Sun, 18, has been learning ceramics. “When I started, I could only make one piece every two days. Now it just takes me 10 minutes,” he said proudly.
Sun told Shanghai Daily that the reformatory had asked him what he wanted to learn besides his regular classes. “My hometown is in Henan Province and there was a pottery behind my house. I thought making ceramics could be fun so I signed up for this class, but I soon found it’s more than just fun and hope to learn more.”
Chen Yufei is owner of Shanghai Tianzhifan Cultural Development Co and a Lion. He plans to support the young prisoners by setting up an incubator and sending some to Jingdezhen, China’s ceramic capital. “We are trying to turn their jail terms to school terms,” he said.
“There is no problem for us to employ them,” Chen said. “They are just people who lack something. They are part of our social family.”
According to Ju Guang, head of the reformatory, the institution attempts to customize study plans for each of its juvenile internees.
“We do our best to offer opportunities to each of them. They have the right to continue their studies, even behind bars.”
Ju said regular courses include bartending, computer technology and floristry.