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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Prisoners' pastime that aids rehabilitation and nets them some vital money

Hundreds of inmates at Dubai Central Jail attend workshops to make everything from trinkets to furniture and clothes and the items wind up on sale at supermarkets across the emirate and even online. 

Making handicrafts in workshops doesn’t only help pass the time for inmates at Dubai Central Prison but it can also net them an income that can go towards settling debts or even supporting families.

In workshops abuzz with activity in the Al Aweer correctional facility, convicts build everything from furniture to trinkets and even motorbikes - all of which end up going on sale in places across Dubai and online.

Major Adel Jumaa Mubarak, head of inmates affairs at the general punitive and correctional department, Ministry of Interior, said that allowing prisoners to make things and do something constructive with their time is one way of rehabilitating them.

“They are not here only for the punishment - that is an old-fashioned concept. These inmates are part of families that wait for their return, and the prison aims to help them return reformed and skilled with a craft that can help them make a living,” said the major.

The wide range of products they make, including office desks, dining and coffee tables, chairs, toys, jewellery boxes and clothes, are being sold at major outlets in Dubai, such as Global Village, Carrefour supermarkets and bazaars organised by government and private institutions.

Maj Mubarak said that the items are also posted for sale on social media by Dubai Police so people can browse an extensive range of high-quality products that can even be ordered online via the police website and mobile app.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Thani Al Falasi, director of supplies and services at the General Department of Punitive and Correctional Establishments, about 150 of the 2,000 prison population are involved in making the items and five per cent of the profit from their sale gets distributed back to them. This is in addition to the prisoners modest monthly salary of Dh250.

“They also get numerous supportive gifts and we try to provide them with anything they need. If any of them have served their term and need a ticket to fly home, we provide him with one, if any of them have an outstanding fine or blood money, we also help pay it,” said Lt Col Al Falasi.

Lieutenant Ali Abdullah, who supervises the workshops, said that the door is always open for any inmate who wants to be involved.

“It’s optional and even those who come to us and do not have any knowledge or experience, we train them well before they join the workforce at the workshops,” he said, adding that recently they have teamed up with Al Futtaim, which provided the jail with motorbikes used to teach prisoners how to assemble and fix them.

Last week, the General Department of Punitive and Correctional Institutions at the Ministry of Interior organised an exhibition of the products made by inmates from across the UAE. It was held on the sidelines of the International Day of Prisoners celebration and included a number of handicrafts, traditional products, accessories, carpentry, furniture and other items.