VIC, Volunteers In Prison
Many are with us, others disagree, but everyone recognizes the importance of the cause we are fighting for: JUSTICE. We believe that justice is not done with imprisonment but it is really achieved when the offender gets closer to the victim and together they undertake a path of revisiting their own stories, their own experiences. A path of reconciliation. Volunteering: few can understand the true meaning of the word volunteering and what it means to be a volunteer: being a volunteer requires a lot of commitment and a lot of attention. Volunteering means helping without asking for anything in return. Volunteering also means knowing how to grasp those details and advice that older people give, to grow and to make the whole association, as well as the population grow. Volunteering is altruism, solidarity but above all it is a life-changing experience and helps to increase one’s social and personal heritage.
VOLUNTEERS IN PRISON
Every day the VIC volunteers meet the women and men detained in the Listening Centers active in all sections of the four prisons of Rebibbia (Rebibbia New Complex Prison, Rebibbia Prison House, Third House with attenuated custody, Female prison) and in the “Protected Department” of the Pertini hospital. We are a hundred volunteers. Every day we meet them, we listen to them and we try to support them in the construction of a path that leads them to an outside different from the one that brought them inside. Listening to and accompanying people in prison during the period of expiation of the sentence, coaching during award permits, contacts with families, moral and material support are the pivot of the VIC activity, which is characterized and it differs from other organized organizations operating in prisons, precisely because of this constant, widespread and personalized presence alongside the detainees. Traveling with them along a stretch of road in the difficult period of detention towards a desired reintegration has remained and therefore remains the focus of our work. For over 25 years we have been carrying out a clothing distribution service, in agreement with the management of prisons, to guarantee the minimum for those in prison who do not even have to cover themselves. The purchase of clothing, underwear, shoes, but also toothpaste and toothbrushes, shampoo and towels, is one of the heaviest items in our budget. In collaboration with the food bank, the Association periodically brings food to destitute inmates. Prisons are increasingly a place for the poor. People without everything or with few resources, people who often live on the margins because, as emerges from a research carried out by the Antigone association, “the prison chooses its guests among those who have fewer social opportunities, are less guaranteed in society and during the process “. If you want you can contribute by helping us with the clothing purchase costs or with targeted donations. Every year the VIC organizes a permanent training course for its volunteers, aware that every social intervention is also a process of cultural elaboration, a place of definition of other thought. It is in this context that we have held meetings on the theme of restorative justice, the various problems of penitentiary life, the penitentiary system and its reform; that we met with experts and witnesses; that we offer support to volunteers for the difficult task of listening and accompanying with the help of psychologists; that we compare ourselves with the other realities of the penitentiary world, both institutional and the third sector; that we try to grasp the signs of change and the new needs emerging from the complex world of detention. There is no reintegration without a supportive and welcoming city. For this reason, an integral part of our work is information and awareness-raising on the issues of prison and justice. This is why we are available to meet those who want to know better a world that is talked about so much but little is known. We are convinced that every social intervention is also a process of cultural elaboration, a place of definition of other thought. We believe that our presence in prison, like that of volunteering in general, makes a fundamental contribution by interpreting the community’s demand for security in a positive way, demonstrating that the best guarantees to society are given not by excluding the person sanctioned, but by helping them to become a ” citizen “. Because the ability to guarantee the safety of citizens can be measured both in terms of the results of repressive policies and in terms of the effectiveness of reintegration policies. But the voice of the nearly ten thousand volunteers who work in prisons is a thin voice, which often struggles to make itself heard, submerged as it is by the clamor of indignation, harsh invocations, easy demagogy. Today more than ever we feel the need to produce a new culture of solidarity, a new culture of rights, a new culture of welcome, a new culture of social integration. Today, more than ever, we are convinced that solidarity detached from justice is nothing more than a way to settle one’s conscience, leaving things as they are. For this reason, the VIC promotes meetings on the subject with parish groups, associations, schools, universities, and with anyone interested in learning more about a world that is too often talked about without really knowing it.
Since 1989, the VIC Association has welcomed over 10 thousand people in its Housing Homes: Italians and foreigners, young and old (even over eighty), women and men. In our house, sick people who had to undergo treatment incompatible with detention, pregnant women, the sick, many foreigners (from over 75 countries) found hospitality. The guests come mainly from the most marginal sections of society. The VIC house is one of the few inmates’ accommodation facilities that welcomes both men and women, thus offering the opportunity to spend a few days with the families “at home”. To encourage the recovery or strengthening of socio-family relationships, in fact, family members also find hospitality in the House both during the award permits of their relative, and for the duration of the interviews in prison in the case of families coming from outside Rome or outside. Italy who are unable to pay the costs of a hotel. In addition, inmates also find hospitality in the Reception House in alternative measure, to spend the “on-call hours” envisaged by the program established by the Management and approved by the Supervisory Magistrate. For those without accommodation, the alternative is to return to prison early, giving up hours of freedom and contact with the outside world. For many inmates, the Housing House is seen as “their” home, the place where they have begun to measure themselves with real life, where they have embraced their loved ones again perhaps after years of being away, where they have begun to free typical structures of those who have been institutionalized for a long time. The House was born as a response to the de facto deprivation of a right for indigent and foreign prisoners. The lack of accommodation resulted in the impossibility for them to access the measure of the permit award, the first step towards the process of resocialization and social reintegration. The first structure dates back to 1989: a house intended to house prisoners from the prisons of Rome and the Province, set up in an apartment rented by Caritas Diocesana in the Colli Aniene district. Subsequently, starting from 1994, the Association made available to prisoners and their families a “Community Accommodation” opened in Rome first in Via dei Giubbonari 64 (made available to the diocesan Caritas) then in Via Poppea Sabina 45, still in Via Cesare Massini 62 and today we are in Via Monte Velino 30 (the last three are entirely borne by the VIC). The current accommodation facility, managed by our Association since 1 September 2017, is a former residence for the new SISTERS SERVE DI MARIA RIPARATRICI of three floors with a garden. In addition to the unquestionable service rendered to detainees and their families, the housing community has allowed us to consolidate the relationship with the management of the institutions and with the surveillance judiciary, to which we have made available a tool that offers them sufficient guarantees to favor the granting of benefits to people who would otherwise remain in prison until the end of the sentence, thus also guaranteeing the poor and those without a home the right to take advantage of the bonus permits, from which they would otherwise be excluded. The Project has a dual objective of starting a systematic and structured activity at the service of detainees who benefit from the premium permit, home detention and their family members, for their social reintegration, through the development and implementation of individual organic projects. and continuous help to raise awareness in the city and parishes on the problems of detention. The project, centered around the “Casa Accomodation delVIC” and the “Sixth non-profit city of refuge”, offers support in the search for a job (research on the internet and in the press, writing CVs, sending application emails, etc.); support in the study path (contacts with schools and universities, research of online teaching material, tutoring, etc.); support in finding accommodation (contacts with agencies and private individuals, preparation of documentation, etc.); use of health services (reservations, accompaniments, etc.); use of legal assistance; use of services to the general public (request for documents, bureaucratic procedures, files at the counters, etc.). accompaniment to and from the Casa Accomodation. Initiation of ten inmates to Professional Training Courses (in IT and other subjects) carried out by the Cooperative Society of Social Solidarity “e-Team” a r.l. in collaboration with other cooperatives, already operating in the same area within the Rebibbia Penitentiary Institutes. In addition, the Project includes awareness-raising meetings on the problems of detention in the City of Rome. In particular, the Vic proposes education courses on legality in schools.