Mexico City, 20 September 2022 - At first, prisoners may be elated upon their release from behind bars. Finally, they are free to earn a living, socialize with friends, or enjoy a family meal again.
In reality, however, former prisoners face various challenges after they complete their sentences. Discrimination, stigmatization, and a lack of employment skills can hinder their full social reintegration and even contribute to some committing fresh crimes (i.e., recidivism).
Time spent in prison can - and should - be used to help prisoners acquire tools and skills that allow them to return as valuable members of their communities. There is evidence that prison centers that promote labor programmes foster greater social solidarity and reduce criminal recidivism. Indeed, reducing recidivism results in safer societies, lessens the burden on the criminal justice system, and reduces costs for taxpayers.
With this in mind, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is collaborating with the Mexico City government and the private sector to offer training courses within prisons to help inmates secure employment once they have served their time.
In July 2022, UNODC offered a training and certification workshop to inmates and custodians at a penitentiary center in Mexico City to show that social reintegration and green jobs can go hand in hand. 25 workshop participants gained basic skills and understanding regarding the care of water and the social, economic, and environmental benefits of rainwater harvesting systems for urban living environments.
As part of the training, a harvesting system was installed inside the prison. The collected rainwater will be used for cleaning purposes in some dorms, while reducing the amount of water wasted. The participants received certification as qualified installers, which improves their employability upon their release.
“I had never attended a training course like this before, and I realized I have more skills than I thought,” said one beneficiary of the training. “The workshops also allow us to escape from the routine, keep our minds busy, and get to know more people.”
Another participant said: "Learning how to install these water systems is a new way of earning a living and also growing as a person. Now I can prove that I have experience and qualifications in this field when I go looking for jobs in the future."
UNODC and its partners will carry out more environmentally-responsible activities that promote social reintegration, such as workshops for women prisoners in Mexico City on the installation of solar panels.
All these experiences are being compiled in a handbook of good practices that will serve as a reference for social reintegration initiatives throughout Latin America.
The UNODC project "Back to the community" focuses on training and job opportunities for people deprived of their liberty. This initiative provides inmates with tools that facilitate reintegration into society and reduce the risk of recidivism. At the same time, this project tackles the biases and prejudices experienced by this group and expands their support networks. To learn more, click here.