Unlocking new opportunities for prisoners

Local volunteers are working with prisoners to unlock the power of reading and educational opportunities to help them reintegrate into society.

Name of project: The social library into the prison

The challenge 

The small library in Sollicciano Prison in Florence is cut off from the outside world, with limited opening hours, but library colleagues have big ambitions to help prisoners develop the skills they need to reintegrate into society upon release from prison and to help them prepare for the future.

The initiative

Through this challenge team, the library is working with the local community to address some of the challenges faced by a culturally diverse prisoner population. They have connected with local volunteers and teachers outside the prison to develop a range of services, including Italian language learning, creative writing and reading. Authors have also been invited as part of a cultural programme.

The challenge team wants to make the prison library a point of reference for prisoners – helping with their social integration as well as emphasising the importance of reading as the basis of every skill for educational opportunities and active participation in local life.

The challenge team said: “The role of reading for people limited in their freedom is very important because, through the power of imagination, they can acquire more awareness about their problems and they can build a new world in which to experiment with new positive roles.”

What’s next?

The public-private cooperation is a new alliance to support the prison to be more open to the re-education of prisoners and it has been highly successful.

The prisoners’ workshops are still on going, thanks to the strategic involvement of the group of volunteers. In future, the challenge team hopes to create a publication with prisoners to showcase the writing and other skills they have learned. 

Thanks to the Europe Challenge, they have been able to start a new international exchange and they have applied to the Horizon Programme with the aim of reflecting on the role and social impact of the library as a public space. 

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