This week Awesome Stories brings you humane prison reform.
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.
May we learn to have more compassion and responsibility in our lives.