UNODC holds photography workshops in prisons of the Brazilian Federal District opening a dialogue on human rights, health and violence in prison settings


Photography Workshop at Teaching and professional improvement nucleum of the Provisional Detention Center Brasília

Brasília, 13 November 2014 - "I enjoyed the freedom of walking around", said one of the prisoners of the Temporary Detention Center of the Brazilian Federal District, after the first photography workshop held by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in partnership with the Ministry of Health and with the support from the European Union Delegation in Brazil.

The workshops took place on the 10 and 11 November. The first day of the workshop was focused to prison staff. Then, in this first day, 17 prison staff of the health, administration, security and social assistance departments of the prison settings attended the workshop. The second day was initially dedicated only to prisoners. However, after inmates' requests, teachers of the Educational and Professional Development Department of the Temporary Detention Center also joined the workshop. "I think it is better with the presence of our teachers because I feel very comfortable with them", said one of the inmates. Thus, on the second day, 15 interns and 4 teachers of the prison settings attended the event.

The photography workshop was just the first activity of this project of the UNODC Liaison and Partnership Office in Brazil, which aims to develop a methodology for raising awareness and building capacity on human rights in prisons. The idea is to use images that depict everyday situations of vulnerability related to the promotion and/or violation of human rights in prisons in order to promote a discussion on the subject, focusing on gender, violence and health issues, specifically the prevention of AIDS, viral hepatitis and tuberculosis.

The project begins with a two-day photography workshop, in which participants have the chance to express their views on the prison environment by capturing images that represent the perceptions and feelings of those who live the everyday life of Brazilians prisons. The activities involve both prisoners and professionals working in prisons that share specific internal spaces every day, but with radically different perspectives and roles.

On the first workshop, participants learn the basics of photography and receive digital cameras to photograph any place, object or person that has a meaning for them, within the environments in which they live, work and circulate in prisons. On the second workshop participants analyze and pick their photos.

The images produced by the participants will be used in the project's second stage which will also be divided in a two-day meeting. In this second moment, a discussion about human rights will be held based on the chosen photographs. It will serve as an instrument to open up a space for dialogue about the relations and perceptions between imprisoned persons and prison staff, approaching concepts and guidelines on issues related to gender, vulnerabilities, disease prevention and violence.

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The first edition of the Project was initiated on August 2013 at the Madre Pelletier Female Prison and at Porto Alegre's Central Prison. One of its results was the "Freedom to look" exhibition which displayed the result of two photography workshops held with 17 inmates and 18 professionals from Madre Pelletier Female Prison and Porto Alegre's Central Prison. Overall, over 100 images that illustrate the daily life of the two prisons, produced during the workshops by people who live this reality every day, were exhibited together with testimonials from the participants. The exhibition was held in 2013 at the Usina do Gasômetro and at the Praça Quinze de Novembro in Porto Alegre. In 2014, the exhibition was taken to Vienna to be presented at the Global Consultation on HIV Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support in Prison Settings.  

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