Strength to rise up again

 
A group of Focolare young people, the prison administration of Rebibbia’s Adult Prison and a committee of detainees.

“For nearly three years we Young People For A United World, here in Rome, have been working with the prison adminstration and the G9 Committee, a group of eight prisoners from an un-named department of the prison of Rebibbia, who, although they don’t have children of their own, have been engaged in promoting opportunities for other prisoners to meet with their families. Raffaele Natalucci and another twenty-nine young people from Rome share their story.

“Three times a year we set up stands where parents and children can spend some time together, playing and colouring with their little ones. During the organized events in the grassy areas, the internal courtyard of the prison, nearly three-hundred people are able to gather, which include inmates and their families, and numerous volunteers from the local area. During one of those events a detainee shared his experience with us: “Being deprived of your freedom, estranges you from reality. Staying in a cell, between four walls, one’s horizon also begins to shrink. Those that had benefited from special permits said that it was difficult to look far into the horizon. The opportunity to do jobs inside the prison means a lot to me. Before, I spent my energy on illegal activity, but that turned out to be like eating an ice-cream cone that was melting in the sun. But to work at organizing sport events or projects that benefit the inmates is a hundred times better than any salary.”

Raffaele continues: “As Young People For Unity, we’re having a very powerful human experience: the order from the prison guards to leave every piece of personal property behind resounds, every time, like an invitation to also abandon every prejudice, going beyond the barriers between the outside world and the prison world, to build authentic relationships with the people in jail, to the point that they now refer to us as the “External Committee”. We’ve launched a “Project on Legality” with a series of thematic gatherings outside the prison. In full sync with the instructors, inmates and experts, we’ve chosen to explore several topics, such as interpersonal relationships, integration among cultures, a legality of “us”, the rediscovery of one’s attitudes and re-insertion into professional life.”

On Father’s Day, March 19th, we invited psychologist, Ezio Aceti, to speak on parenthood, to some seventy inmates in the prison theatre. The presenation was focused on the needs and expectations of the child. “Take note of the other person’s thoughts, talk honestly about oneself, show a positive image,” he explained. “These are the necessary prerequisites so that the encounter between detainies and their children will bear fruit.”

During the roundtable conference, one detainee asked: “What can a father with a life sentence say to his daughter?” “That her father made a mistake, but is doing all he can,” was the answer. “If his daughter finds that integrity and the courage to get up again, that will be the image she has of her father.” “Parenthood is keeping a bond going. You must transmit a feeling of belonging to your children. Then they will have a positive experience and will remember their father who is in prison.” Lastly, the psychologist strongly encouraged the detainees: “Raising a child does not mean not making mistakes, but putting everything into it in spite of the mistakes. That will teach your children tolerance. You can be good fathers even if you’ve made mistakes. Deep down all of us feel discouraged, but there’s another voice in our hearts that tells us: Get up, begin again. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve gone wrong, but how many times you’ve got up again. The miracle is that by always getting up again, a change will take place.”

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