Pris­on­ers to have brighter fu­ture with help of ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tion

Shanghai Daily - - FRONT PAGE - Ke Ji­ayun

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.

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