27 February Feb 2013 1620 27 February 2013

EU-AVSI alliance for human rights: the Alem dos muros project

Universality and indivisibility are the essence of Human Rights. Many situations such as detention, poverty or war can jeopardize them but, in any case, they should be protected and promoted through a comprehensive approach, and not fragmented into social categories. In fact, the aim is the promotion of the person as a whole and of his/her “innate dignity”.

On January 28th  the thrilling concert Muros & Violas (Walls and Guitars) was held at the APAC prison of Itauna, Brazil, with music, songs and stories of “new” men.
Chico Lobo, one of the most important Brazilian composers, together with the percussionist Carlinho, brought into the prison the “Folia dos Reis”,a Brazilian folk music that represents the arrival of the Three Kings and is performed during a picturesque walk in the rural areas of the Country throughout the month of January. Just as happens in the villages of the countryside, people gathered to accompany the musicians along the corridors of the prison.
The Association for Protection and Assistance of Prisoners (APAC – Associação de Proteçao e Assistência aos condenados) is a Brazilian not-for-profit organization which has been developing a unique approach to prison regime since 1972. APAC’s methodology, which today is considered as a reference point also at the international level, is based on the concept of human valorization and represents an alternative to the conventional prison system. In Brazil, there are 147 APACs. The world average of criminal recidivism rate is 70% and in Brazil reaches 80%, whereas in the APACs it decreases to 10%. Moreover, the cost per person for the construction of a jail site is a third of the cost of the conventional prison and the maintenance costs are halved.
The day, ended with a delicius lunch offered by prisonners, showed that APACs are not only a model for the recovery of convicts but also a real alternative for the expiation of the punishment, a place to discover new values. The judge Paulo Carvalho, from Itauna, highlighted: “Meetings like this may be considered as fun days but as a matter of fact they have a great importance both for prisoners and public-private actors involved in this crucial challenge”.
AVSI supports the APACs’experience through the project “Alem dos muro – Beyond the walls”, funded by the European Union, and implemented in partnership withthe Brazilian organization Instituto Minas pela Paz. The project aims to strengthen APACs’ management, which mainly involves volunteers, and provide vocational training for prisonners and access to the labor market.