Unable to receive family visits due to the 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 have all 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.
Prison with no guards
In the Latin American country, where the pandemic is dramatic with 1 million cases and 50,000 deaths, 400 “recuperandos” in 23 APACs, Brazilian prisons with no guards, are making 350,000 masks to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. The protective equipment will be donated to the most vulnerable population thanks to a project implemented by AVSI and funded by the European Union.
Renato Da Silva Junior harbours ambitions of becoming a lawyer. There is just one obstacle: he is a quarter of the way through serving a 20-year jail sentence for murder.
“My dreams are bigger than my mistakes,” says Da Silva, a slightly built man with a broad smile. “I am doing everything to get out of here as soon as I can.”
Da Silva, 28, an inmate at the men’s prison in Itaúna, a town in Minas Gerais, south-east Brazil, is chipping away at his sentence and has already reduced it by two years through work and study at the Association for Protection and Assistance to Convicts (Apac) prison. Here, inmates wear their own clothes, prepare their own food and are even in charge of security. At an Apac jail, there are no guards or weapons, and inmates literally hold the keys.
With “Overcoming Borders”, AVSI wants to give prisoners a more dignified life. Financed by the European Union, the project was created to strengthen the experience of the Association for the Protection and Assistance of Convicted Persons (APAC) in the state of Minas Gerais, and to expend the method to five states in Brazil: Ceará, Espírito Santo, Maranhão, Paraná and Rondônia.