Theater performance a ‘way out’ for prisoners

For one evening recently, some of the inmates of Korydallos Prison enjoyed a welcome change of scene as they staged a performance of the play «Women’s Days.» Fifteen women inmates (aged 13-45) of the «In Action» rehabilitation center wrote their own stories in the form of a play performed last Sunday, World Day Against Drugs, on a stage outside the Justice Ministry in central Athens. «The Justice Ministry’s response to our proposal was unhoped for and showed sensitivity and humanity. For us it is an opportunity to show that we are achieving something in the program, but above all to enable these women to realize they can make good use of their time spent in prison,» said Yiannis Tentis, who heads the prison’s rehab program. The women have completed their therapy for biological addiction. What most of them have in common is that at some point in their lives, they sought an outlet in drugs from their problems at home, their difficulty in establishing self-confidence or in setting life goals. «In helping these women prisoners, I found that what was missing from their early home and family lives were clear principles and values; usually one of their parents was emotionally distant. As children they often had to assume adult roles. They gradually became isolated and unable to form friendships,» he said. Tentis has found that the most difficult thing for these women to manage is their identity as women; they cannot imagine that even in today’s society they are equal to men; they are afraid to fight for their rightful place in society. The program is supplemented by a social rehabilitation program that helps them find jobs, but not only. «We want to help these women get out in society, to develop an interest in the world and to discover pleasant occupations, to acquire opinions on various issues,» said Tentis. Many ex-addicts find jobs that are usually auxiliary positions such as secretaries, typists, or saleswomen. Some manage to progress to more senior positions or to study at the Open University. The justice minister has called the prison’s educational and vocational guidance program a «second chance at hope and life.» Begun last year, it has already attracted 137 participants.

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