What a day.
I knew it would be somewhat intense, and certainly strange and awkward. After all, you always think of prison from the outside.
What would it be like to be inside? Would we be able to do what you expect to be doing when you volunteer — bring some support? And which kind of support could we provide that would possibly be useful in such a strange and secluded world?
Being inside was actually awkward. Being inside brought a different, three-dimensional perspective into something that in my imagination had always been sort of two-dimensional.
We met the entrepreneurs: leaders of the cooperatives that work with the inmates in prison, creating value in a place where the word value itself needs redefinition.
We met the educators and team leaders — people coming from the outside world, people formerly working at normal jobs like us, who brought their know-how, professionality and humanity inside, and helped create a functional working environment in a community that came to exist through disfunction.
We met the inmates — men and women with very different walks of life, many of them keen to talk to us with various degrees of openness, all of them trying hard to find their pace, their peace, their space through daily work. Each one of them deeply conscious that working was helping them survive, process, find a centre, keep sane, stay human.
The strongest impression was not seeing with my own eyes the orthodoxies I had imagined. Yes, you had the long corridors, the gates, the guards, but that was not the most striking.
It was more that as we talked to people, the meaning of certain words got deeper, stronger, heavier, and took up a different connotation: daily words like today, tomorrow, child, visit, future, family, phone call; and work-life keywords like job, leadership, responsibility, diversity, vision, inclusion, respect. And above all the word “normal”.
We all came back with many stories to tell, and with a general feeling of uniqueness and depth and intensity; but I think we all still feel that there is a lot in this experience that will be challenging to fully process, and worth all the effort.
Isabella Failla, In-Store Innovation Manager at Whirlpool EMEA