Awesome Stories 381

This week Awesome Stories brings you humane prison reform.

Compassionate Prisons

APAC, prison reform, Awesome Stories

A staircase from the APAC prison to the gardens where inmates are responsible for growing their own food. Photo by Michelle Ferng.

Brazil has the third largest prison population in the world, behind only the US and China, with a long history of violence, and a shocking 70% recidivism rate. Valdeci Ferreira was inspired to help during a prison visit in the 1980s. He was shocked at how bad the circumstances were in a system breaking down with overload, violence, greed, bankruptcy, and more. Valdeci decided to make it his mission to help transform the prison system by addressing the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the inmates.

While researching what he could do, Valdeci came across APAC, the Association for the Protection and Assistance to the Convicted. APAC created a form of incarceration that focuses on rehabilitation, humanizing the punishment, and preparing people to re-enter society. The prisoners are kept busy during the day and only use their cells to sleep. They are busy with jobs, study, recreation, and religion. The prisons are clean, serve healthy food, and prisoners are known by their name, not a number.

The APAC system works.

It is built on the idea that people are more than their mistakes and their crime doesn’t define them. They are literally given the keys to their cell, along with the trust it implies. The prisoners begin to learn about responsibility, making decisions, and preparing the world outside.

The results have been fantastic.

The APAC approach costs only one third what traditional prisons do, have low recidivism (between 7% and 20%), and far better behavior with no violence or weapons. Despite its success, funding of the APAC system has yet to become national policy, allowing for more funding. Currently, APAC operates about 100 centers run by donations and volunteers.

Ferreira continues to work and have faith that the system will be widely adopted. He was recognized by the Schwab Foundation in 2018 as the Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

If you’d like to learn more about prison reform and restorative justice, you can visit these sites.

Bridges to Justice.

Restorative Justice.

Restorative Practices.

May we learn to have more compassion and responsibility in our lives. 


29 thoughts on “Awesome Stories 381

  1. It is fascinating how this APAC system works better. I guess it is what you say. By giving
    some responsibility and teach care the prisoners are more able to adapt to a normal life.
    The old system will create more and more anger and hate.

    Not always easy to decide from case to case but I applaud that there are such new approaches.


    Liked by 2 people

  2. The idea behind APAC system sounds really interesting and thoughtful..
    Compassion is a very positive and strong emotion which can indeed do wonders!
    Hope it transforms the prison environment not just in Brazil but all around.
    Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Illuminating post Brad. I teach psychology as an elective in a Criminal Justice Program. I will most certainly share your article with my students. And having done psychological assessments on several post penitentiary inmates, I can 100% attest to the importance of acknowledging the humanity in everyone. Thank you for sharing. Brilliant research.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Andrea. I’m delighted to hear that you will share this info with your class! I feel strongly that we need more compassionate approaches to justice like this and the whole restorative justice movement. In gratitude, Brad


  4. If we showed more compassion and kindness in ALL of life’s situations, it would reap rich rewards in all sections of society I feel Brad.. This was indeed an Awesome post.. Let us hope more take up this idea.. ❤
    Love and Blessings for a great week Brad.. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Love this. I think if we did this across every sector – humanizing all those around us – we’d be in much better shape.
    I’m a little late getting here. I had a conference this weekend. It was good, but I’m catching up on all these wonderful blogs. 🙂
    I wish you a wonderful week!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Shining light in what would otherwise be such an inhumane situation. I don’t know how people can come out of prison as better human beings when they are treated brutally. This is an important initiative.Thanks for sharing, Brad.

    Liked by 2 people

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