Doha, Qatar - For some inmates of the Qatar Penal Institution and Correctional Administration, freedom means the ability to create and express themselves through art.
The fruits of their artistic labor are currently displayed at the Qatar National Convention Center as part of the 13th UN Crime Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
"The Ministry of Interior (MOI) firmly believes that its main mandate as administrators of the correctional system is rehabilitation, not just handing out punishment," said Maj. Jassim Al Kaabi, Head of Rehabilitation and Care Section of the Reformatory and Penalty Institutions Department.
The rehabilitation program includes training in art, carpentry, English, computer literacy and vocational courses. Currently, 50 inmates are engaged in producing paintings and making traditional boxes and various handicrafts.
Paintings, apart from letting the artists express their inner feelings visually, have proven to be lucrative as well. Many of the paintings of the inmates are sold during exhibitions in Qatar and abroad. There is also an online store on the MOI website on which interested buyers can browse, select and buy. The proceeds of the sale are split equally between the inmate and the Correctional Administration who uses the funds to purchase art materials and other supplies.
Prisoners can send the money to their families and pay off their debts. The materials purchased are of the best kinds, be it canvases, water and oil colors, brushes, and others.
A professional art teacher delivers lectures and provides guidance to nurture and develop the artists' skills. There is a fully equipped studio where the artists do their work. Prisoners who are part of the rehabilitation program get bigger financial allowances and other benefits. Motivational parties are likewise held from time to time.
Every year, a special exhibition in Doha called "Prisoners Week" showcases not only paintings but other handicrafts and works by the inmates to the general public.
"The rehabilitation program lets inmates make good use of their time in prison," adds Maj. Al Kaabi. "They can use the skills that they develop to find a job or start their own business once they are released."
Many ex-convicts have actually opened their own shops and have found jobs in government agencies, through the help of the ministries and the Qatar Social Rehabilitation Center.
"Our job doesn't end with the person's release," said Maj. Al Kaabi. "We check on them until they are employed. This assures their reintegration to society and is the biggest reward of the program for the State of Qatar."
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Inmates Art (picture 1): http://hugin.info/168429/R/1912313/682520.jpg
Inmates Art (picture 2): http://hugin.info/168429/R/1912313/682521.jpg
Inmates Art (picture 3): http://hugin.info/168429/R/1912313/682522.jpg