19 de septiembre de 2019
Hispanic World

Argentine cooperative provides new lease on life for former inmates

Cristina Terceiro

Cristina Terceiro

Buenos Aires, May 23 (efe-epa).- An Argentine cooperative launched in 2010 by inmates, ex-prisoners and their family members aims to provide work opportunities to people who have served time in penitentiaries and promote their social reinsertion.

"We started off making little notebooks from pieces of jeans that no one was using and recycled paper," the president of the Esquina Libertad (Freedom Corner) cooperative, Eyelen Stroker, told EFE, adding that the cooperative now also runs a publishing house, a print shop and a training center.

The genesis of the initiative was the "lack of a government presence" in providing support to people when they leave prison, she said.

The cooperative reaches out to inmates while they are still behind bars and provides them tools so that the employment issue does not become "yet another problem added to their list of things to resolve," Stroker said.

She said she decided to head up this project in part because Argentine law does not allow former inmates to sit on the board of a cooperative for 10 years after they have completed their prison sentence.

But she also took on this role because after her husband ended up behind bars she became aware that family members also endure a type of prison and the stigma associated with it.

The cooperative mainly operates in the only prison in the city of Buenos Aires, Devoto, a badly overcrowded facility whose population has tripled in recent years.

She says those problems also have made her organization's work much more complicated.

According to figures from the National Prison Ombudsman's Office, the country's prison population continued to rise in 2018, worsening an overcrowding problem and prompting the declaration of a three-year state of emergency at federal penitentiaries.

Nearly 40 percent of inmates become repeat offenders, a pressing problem that Stroker says the organization is successfully addressing.

"Those linked to our project have a 95 percent non-recidivism rate," she said.

Education makes all the difference in this process, making the recidivism rate three times lower. The teaching function is at the heart of the cooperative, which was launched under the umbrella of a University of Buenos Aires prison-education program.

Daniel Fernandez, who spent his adolescence at different youth-detention centers, said a workshop on literature and philosophy changed his life.

When he regained his freedom, he said he decided to get involved with the cooperative and started teaching workshops to help other youth with similarly troubled pasts.

Now 25, he said that having been in the prison system and gaining an understanding of the problems from the inside makes him better able to convey certain knowledge.

He also composes rap songs whose socially conscious lyrics enable him to communicate with young people.

"I feel like we're doing a job that the government isn't doing and that those of us who had fallen into problems we don't want to return to are taking on this responsibility," Fernandez told EFE.

He insisted on the importance of "making people understand that they have opportunities and spaces where they can achieve their potential."

Fernandez said he is aware that having a criminal record "closes doors to you on many sides" in Argentina, a country that is currently mired in recession with an unemployment rate that is nearly in double digits.

But he stressed the need to "fight to create sources of work so you don't fall back into that cycle" that led to prison in the first place.

Mauro, who has been behind bars for 11 years and preferred not to give his last name to avoid problems, coordinates two workshops from Devoto's Pavilion 50 and serves as a link between his fellow inmates and the cooperative.

He said that learning about Esquina Libertad and getting involved with the cooperative has provided him with a "ray of hope" and shown him that "you can do things well, improve and get out" with the help of his peers.


Histórico de noticias
Jason Moran and his ode to jazz arrive at New York's Whitney Museum

New York, Sep 17 (efe-epa).- Jason Moran, considered to be one of the most innovative jazz musicians in the United States, has created an ode to that...

Greta Thunberg, activists urge Congress to act on climate change

Washington, Sep 17 (efe-epa).- Sixteen-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, along with a group of indigenous leaders, on Tuesday demanded...

Nicaragua zoo welcomes scarlet macaw born in captivity

Managua, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- Nicaragua's National Zoo has welcomed a baby scarlet macaw, a species in danger of extinction, born in captivity at the zoo for...

Baseball legend Mariano Rivera receives Medal of Freedom from Trump

Washington, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- Panama-born baseball legend Mariano Rivera, the former New York Yankees pitcher, on Monday received the Presidential Medal of...

New York hairdressers look after Latino community's mental health

By Ruth E. Hernandez Beltran

Purdue Pharma files for bankruptcy as per settlement

New York, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- Pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the highly addictive opioid OxyContin, has filed for bankruptcy in the...

Vaping: Roulette of chemical ingredients that can cause cancer

Washington, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- Electronic cigarettes contain a chemical flavoring compound that can cause cancer and that has been prohibited as an additive...

Hurricane Humberto intensifies, threatens US coast with strong waves

Miami, Sep 16 (EFE).- Hurricane Humberto continues intensifying in the Atlantic on Monday and threatens to pound the southeast coast of the United States...

Honduran president asks CentAm to work together to overcome common enemies

Tegucigalpa, Sep 15 (efe-epa).- Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Sunday urged Central Americans to unite to face "common enemies," including...

Venezuelans in forefront of new delivery operations in Ecuador

By Daniela Brik

Maradona makes stumbling debut as Gimnasia coach

Buenos Aires, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- Diego Maradona had a bitter first outing as the new coach for Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, falling to Racing Club 2-1...

Argentina's gov't to present new budget amid economic woes

Buenos Aires, Sep 15 (EFE).- Finance Minister Hernan Lacunza will present the proposed 2020 budget to the Argentine Congress this week, a budget that will...

UN proposes better education, security to protect religious sites

By Mario Villar

Bolivian indigenous people try to recover in aftermath of Amazon fires

By Gabriel Romano

Celebrities turn out to help Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian

San Juan, Sep 12 (efe-epa).- Almost half of the 2,500 people listed as missing after Hurricane Dorian devastated the northwestern Bahamas have been tracked...

Migrant advocate says Mexican gov't hindered by political realities

By Juan Manuel Ramirez G.

Bahamas officials estimate 2,500 missing after Hurricane Dorian

San Juan, Sep 11 (efe-epa).- Bahamas emergency authorities estimate that some 2,500 people are missing after the devastating passage of Hurricane Dorian...

Trump doesn't rule out easing Iran sanctions to pave way for Rouhani summit

Washington, Sep 11 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump on Wednesday did not rule out relaxing US sanctions on Iran in the coming weeks, amid rumors that he...

Mexico's gov't pumps $5 bn in capital into Pemex

Mexico City, Sep 11 (efe-epa).- The federal government said Wednesday that it was pumping $5 billion in capital into Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), bolstering...

Trump rips Fed, urges rate cuts and zero interest rates

Washington, Sep 11 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump renewed his attacks on Federal Reserve policy makers on Wednesday, calling them "Boneheads" and urging...

Trump threatens Taliban on anniversary of 9/11

Washington, Sep 11 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump on Wednesday - the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks - promised to escalate combat...

Apple opts for classic look with new iPhones, focuses on camera improvements

By Marc Arcas

TV series "Monarca" shows Mexico that doesn't ride burros or wear sombreros

Mexico City, Sep 10 (efe-epa).- The television series "Monarca," which will air on Netflix on Sept. 13, depicts a Mexico that is "current, that doesn't ride...

Tenharim tribe, the guardians of the Amazon, battling against wildfires

By Fernando Bizerra