Crime & Justice

The Czech inmates turned luthiers to tune back into society

By Gustavo Monge

Odolov, Czech Rep., Jul 26 (EFE).- A Czech prison has turned dozens of inmates into luthiers to help them pass the time, learn a job that will ease their reintegration into society, and provide good quality instruments to young music students in the process.

The Odolov prison, in the north east of the Czech Republic, keeps roughly 300 low and medium threat level inmates with sentences usually of under a year.

“The worst thing here is boredom. The workshop gives meaning to their time in prison,” the prison psychologist Gabriela Safarova tells Efe.

Before instruments were manufactured at the centre, the workshop was only dedicated to making wooden toys.

Music arrived in Odolov in 2006, when the guard Pavel Stanek, who studied music, and military veteran Zdenek Hetfleis, now an educator and free time manager, took the initiative to create a workshop for music instruments.

“With a population of 300 inmates you will always have one or two talented people, although you only have a few months to work with them,” says Hetfleis.

The arrival of Stanek revolutionized the prison’s toy manufacturing, and the most skilled inmates went into the more sophisticated fabrication of string instruments.

Since then, some 60 inmates have served their sentences as luthiers, in total having made 60 violins, violas and cellos and repaired 300.

The work helped them overcome the anxiety and tediousness of prison life, but also contributed to their re-entry to society.

“Out of 60 inmates who have taken part in the workshop, none have reoffended,” says Tomas Kubin, prison director.

In fact, he says, some of them have gone on to open their own workshops after their release, or continued to restore deteriorated instruments as a hobby.

“I have corrected my perception of inmates and, while keeping away from false hopes, I believe we are capable of teaching them to do good things, to redeem themselves,” says Kubin.

One of these luthiers is David Giña, a 42-year-old welder serving a sentence for driving without due documentation.

Giña is currently the only inmate working with instruments, which helps him overlook the fact that he has not seen his five children in eight months.

“I am home here, I love this place. More often than not I spend my entire day here, from morning to 8pm. And I don’t feel like I’m in prison,” he says.

“My first job was fixing a guitar. Then I worked with violins and I realized that I am good at it,” says Giña, as he sands a birch and beech violin cover.

The work is completely voluntary and unpaid, but the inmates, often dealing with addiction to drugs or alcohol, are captured by the joy of gifting their instruments to children. EFE


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