Women in reclusion in Portugal (Unofficial translation)
Type of Information
Diocesan Secretariat for Migration and Tourism (Catholic Diocese of Porto) and the Association More Brazil (Porto)
Ms. Maria Viterbo (a) Ms. Eveline Carvalho Cunha (b) (Login to send email)
Contact Person Function
(a) Director of the Diocesan Secretariat of Migrations in Porto (b) Technical responsible for the Project (Association More Brazil)
The Diocesan Secretariat for Migration and Tourism (Catholic Diocese of Porto), in partnership with the Association More Brazil (Porto), set up the Women in Reclusion in Portugal project which is built around the premise that prison can be an opportunity for transformation. It targets female inmates from different nationalities living without family in Portugal, who find themselves locked up in the prison of Santa Cruz do Bispo, in the outskirts of Porto.
Issue/Challenge and Goal/Assumption
The geographical distance of these women's families and their limited financial resources generate emotional and material needs which the project seeks to meet, within its limitations.
Not limited to visits and delivery of goods, the project's mission is to create conditions for and promote personal and professional development, ethics and citizenship.
After an initial assessment of the needs and expectations of the female inmates, the project's goals were defined around the following topics:
- Self-esteem and self-knowledge;
- Affective re-education;
- Respect for difference;
- Life plans and goals;
- Stress management;
- Physical activity and body awareness;
- Communication and conflict management;
- Arts and crafts;
- Celebration of cultural festivals.
How does it work
Through fortnightly sessions and workshops, the project team - composed of volunteers of both the Association More Brazil and the Diocesan Secretariat of Migrations in Porto - addresses themes that strengthen personal growth and self-care, and facilitate the development of new social and emotional competencies that are essential for inmates' social reintegration upon release.
In addition, volunteers organise social and educational activities such as dance and artistic performances, lectures on social entrepreneurship, arts and craft, etc. Convicted women for example create objects such as necklaces and handbags from recycled of materials, under the brand "To Create Wings". All creative sessions aim at increasing self respect and respect of others, self-esteem, assertive communication capabilities, and at growing a sense of purpose.
Through the sessions and periodic qualitative assessments, the work developed with the inmates has resulted in greater cohesion within the group. An internal network of mutual support has been created. Women are found to be better equipped to manage stress and to deal with prejudiced attitudes from some Portuguese inmates. The active participation of the inmates has visibly led to a change in their behaviour concerning discipline, and allowed them to establish new life goals when released from prison.
There is no follow-up of the inmates after being released, and this is not a foreseeable possibility at this moment: due to privacy issues the Diocesan Secretariat and the Association More Brazil do not keep in touch with former inmates after their release from prison.
The project has evolved in quantitative terms. In 2008 there were 15 inmates involved, then between 2009 and 2014 there were approximately 115 taking part in the activities. Between 2015 and 2016 the project reached out to 26 inmates in a year.
- The project conducts quarterly evaluations through oral and written feedback from the inmates. On an annual basis, as final evaluation, participants are given the task to visually express what the project has meant to them over the year by creating posters.
- The project's success is visible in the testimony of the inmates, mainly when they leave the prison and report the importance of the sessions in their lives and how relevant they were to their personal transformation. The meaningful and sincere hug at the end of each session can also be recorded as a sign of success.
- In terms of a point for improvement, the team has identified the need for greater financial investment in the purchasing of materials for the project, mainly for the very popular arts and crafts sessions.
Who will benefit?
The female inmates of the Prison of Santa Cruz do Bispo are the beneficiaries of the project. They come from the following countries: South Africa, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Spain, Italy, Nigeria, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Their offenses are mainly related to prostitution and drug transportation.
Source of funding and Resources used
The project has an annual budget of 1 000 EUR, sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Porto for the functioning of the Secretariat. This amount is intended primarily to purchase materials for the activities, and to pay for the travel expenses of volunteers, experts and technical staff.
Activities are mainly carried out by unpaid volunteers, but the project also relies on the pro bono participation of experts in various areas (such as social and emotional therapy, dance and performative arts, and psychotherapy).