August 11, 2020

inmates reconnect with family and civil society
while making 350,000 masks

Alisson Tomas Zanetti, Philipe Augusto Ferreira and Edemir Cardoso da Silva Júnior are among the 400 “recovering persons” in 23 APACs, Brazilian prisons with no guards, participating in the project “Humanize Prison Sentences, Promote Life,” funded by the European Union 

Unable to receive family visits due to COVID-19 restrictions, inmates Alisson Tomas Zanetti, Philipe Augusto Ferreira Leal, and Edemir Cardoso da Silva Júnior were feeling abandoned and even more isolated from their community. Together, they sum up a 74-year sentence which they serve inside three APACs (Association for Protection and Assistance to Convicts), a prison system without guards or weapons located in various Brazilian states.  To reconnect and feel useful, they joined “Humanize Prison Sentences, Promote Life.” Funded by the European Union and the Italian Bishop’s Conference and implemented by AVSI Brasil and the Fraternity of Assistance to Convicts (FBAC), the project will help 400 inmates in 23 APACs make 350,000 masks to reduce the spread of coronavirus. 

“I feel good that even though I’m in prison, I can still help my community to prevent the spread of the virus,” says Philipe, who is thankful to serve his 15-year sentence in a dignified way. “It is crucial to support civil society in the distribution of masks so everybody can be protected, especially those working with local institutions, who are helping others and might be more at risk.”

The EU and the Italian Bishop’s Conference funds will be used to buy sewing machines and supplies to make and sterilize the masks, and offer sewing classes. The project is also supported by the Court of Justice, the Government of Minas Gerais, and the Institute Minas Pela Paz. The protective equipment will be donated to the most vulnerable populations in the states where the APACs are located and will also be used by the prisoners.

“Through this project, the prisoners have the opportunity to show solidarity and stay close to their community during the crisis. This pandemic has hit Brazil very hard, and now is engulfing the country”

Brazil is currently the Latin American country with the largest outbreak of COVID-19, counting more than 2 million cases and almost 85,000 deaths, as of July 24. 

“We believe that at some point we will beat this virus, but while it is among us we need to join forces with our community to fight it,” says Silva Junior, who is in his eighth year of a 45-year sentence at the Januaria APAC in Minas Gerais. “Deprived of liberty in social isolation, we are redeeming our sentence with a heart turned to all people who cry out for life, especially those most in need.”

In conjunction with the “Humanize Prison Sentences, Promote Life” project, AVSI and FBAC are promoting the APAC method, which has had astounding success at rehabilitating inmates and to denounce the rampant abuse and violence in Brazil’s prison system.

“The APAC method promotes the inmate’s social reintegration and leads to concrete and positive results for the whole of society,” says Sabatiello. “In Brazil’s penitentiary system, the violence amplifies the problem instead of solving it.”

The Association for Protection and Assistance to Convicts (APAC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the recovery and social reintegration of prisoners. The APAC method believes that humanizing the experience of prison life contributes to the successful rehabilitation of the individual into society. “Humanize Prison Sentences, Promote Life” gets to the heart of this mission.

“Who knows? Maybe this is our legacy, using our hands to do good,” wonders Alisson Tomas Zanetti, who is serving his 14-year sentence at the São João del Rei APAC in Minas Gerais. 

“Today, the world is no longer what it was before, which is good! Sometimes we have to give up the life we had planned, and we have to face the new life ahead of us. We embrace our families, our friends, why not our enemies?”


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