x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Workshops for inmates are income source

A handicraft workshop offers inmates more than a pastime and a modest income ¿ for some it provides a lifetime profession.

For some prisoners, the routine of daily work helps take their mind off things.
For some prisoners, the routine of daily work helps take their mind off things.

DUBAI // A handicraft workshop offers inmates more than a pastime and a modest income - for some it provides a lifetime profession.

The workshop teaches crochet, embroidery, stitching and beadwork to about 40 of the prison's long-term inmates. Most in the workshop are serving sentences of 15 years or more.

The women make bags, baby clothes, shawls and key chains which are sold online and at Global Village. The items have become so popular that in 2010 the workshop sold goods worth Dh172,000. Many of its customers have become regulars.

The women earn a monthly salary of Dh200 as well as sharing five per cent of the annual profits.

"For many the small salary they get helps buy things from the prison supermarket - for others the amount plays a more important role as they save the majority of it for life after prison," said Captain Nawal Al Dossari, the head of the handicraft section at the prison.

Other inmates send the money to their families.

The workshop takes place throughout the morning and finishes at midday. For some prisoners, the routine of daily work helps take their mind off things.

"When you work everyday on making something, you can focus on it," said an Indian inmate convicted of prostitution.

"It stops your mind from wandering, stops you from thinking too much about home. I can only think of what is in my hand and making it look better."

Among their most popular products are cushions of various shapes featuring smiley-faces, but the women also produce things for their own amusement. They have created a family of life-size figures based on the popular Emirati cartoon series Freej and have called the parents Umm and Abu Yasser.

But the workshop offers more than a way to pass their time - it provides them with a skill they can use when they are released that will mean they are not forced to reoffend. "This is the only work I know to do," admitted the former prostitute.

For some of the inmates, the skills will become a lifetime profession.

"One of our old inmates called us a while ago and wanted to let us know that she has opened a similar workshop back in her hometown," said Capt Al Dossari. "Now she is training other women as well."

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