Gareth Evans, about 12 months ago
“ Between the radiant white of a clear conscience and the coal black of a conscience sullied by sin lie many shades of gray - where most of us live our lives. Not perfect but not beyond redemption." - Sherry L. Hoppe
In a Women's Prison in Northern Thailand, a way of seeing what someone can do, rather than only what they have done, promises to support people to become positive members of the community when they are released. Chiang Mai Correctional Institute has a Vocational Training Program established as a direct result of a Royal Advocate for the treatment and rehabilitation potential of female prisoners. Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol launched an initiative in 2006 called ' Inspire' which aims to give prisoners the chance to change, train to become masseuses or seamstresses (amongst others) and to prepare them to live in society again- after decades in prison. Resorts in the region rely on the training the prison provides to ensure a quality employee resource. This in turn spurs on dedication from the jail and the women within them to work towards employment.
“Massage shops in Chiang Mai know the women get quality training and they actively recruit graduates. They even have official agreements with the center to assure both parties that they're hiring prison graduates on the up and up." - Anne Bailey, Washington Post.
Quality training in a valuable industry translate into good business and an effective workforce. The more they are allowed to demonstrate their usefulness and gratitude to society, the more incentive they have to continue to better themselves- and the more the local economy thrives as a result of them being released from prison. Indeed, the scheme is so popular that every day, a line of customers (mostly tourists) wait to book massages at the Vocational Training Centre and since slots fill up quickly, many are turned away and asked to try again the next day.
Chanpeng was jailed at the age of 22 for drugs charges. Seventeen years on, the training in massage therapy is preparing her for release:
“It gives me more confidence to go further in life...I don't want to do drugs like the last time. I think I'll find my own way."
Practical training in industries for people who have broken the law provides more opportunities for them to convert their debt to society into something longlasting and meaningful. By showing these women another way to live, Chiang Mai prison is ensuring a good work-ethic and respect for the local area and the people ex=prisoners will share the area with upon release.
All image credits to Anne Bailey