Have you ever thought about what prison life looks like?
What do you feel when you enter a jail for the first time without ever thinking about what a detention center really is?
I’m a legal professional and I’ve always been trenchant in my judgments.
Anyone who makes a mistake, has to pay for it, no further discounts allowed, and the State has to guard them for your safety. Possibly far away from us.
I have always thought about the victims of the crime and never to the offender.
This experience, in one day, has overturned all my thoughts…
For a day we came in, inside, and we met the inmates.
They divide their life between in and out; between before (of the error…as someone calls it) and now.
And we, Whirlpool employees, a bit unaware of what was happening to us, brought them some fresh air.
We talked about how we work, to who maybe has never worked out of here, and we shared stories about our new headquarters located in Pero: a crossroads of lives and international experiences. Out there, a few miles away from the Bollate Prison.
With no one, I talked about why they were there.
I have heard the plans of those who think about their after because in a few years they will be out, knowing that those who do not talk about it are far away from reaching the finish line.
I answered their questions: why did you come? When you complete a job application, they ask you if you have criminal records?
And who had ever thought about it?!
The answer is that I think most companies do it, and also for that, there are realities like the Bee 4 Altre Menti co-operative.
How is it possible in a jail to have a person serving a life sentence sit down, every day, working for a call center?
I do not know. But fortunately, there are people who know that, making a mission out of this: make inmates work.
So, we visited outsourcing call centers of some well-known companies or the labs where small appliances were repaired.
I talked to prisoners of practices to handle, times, costs, consumer complaints calling from outside.
What impression would it make you knowing that beyond the phone while you are driving to go to work, after having accompanied your children at school, a prisoner responds to you?
How would you feel like if in your work environment after a crunch with a colleague in the evening you could not go home or call a friend to run your head and stay caged with the same colleagues?
Leave for a while all the why….
In that call center where life comes in through a boring complaint of a consumer, what mood do the operators have? If one day their wife does not come to the weekly interview and no one tells them why…if their sons are sick and they can’t use the phone, how do they react?
Because prisoners who work are lucky, let’s say it! (and I hope they understand it fully).
They have a job that returns their dignity, economic livelihood, a hope of not falling again when and if they will be out of there.
But they have no freedom, and even work without freedom and without friends has a different flavor, an altered dimension.
And there was so much life compressed, interrupted, tore in that call center that when our time finished I wanted to embrace them all.
And I tried the pietas.
And then, once I leave, I collapsed.
They say it’s normal. Those who come in full of prejudices (the jail is ugly, dirty and the custody of irrepressible delinquents) then comes out with less certainty and so many questions.
And then we have to find the right equilibrium, in order to give the right weight to all those feelings and emotions, to return to a balance between the value of justice, respect for the victims and the for the crime author.
But as long as you want and you have to find this balance, what remains is having looked into the eyes of people who don’t have anymore their freedom.
Having met amazing people that to this lost eyes and souls give a job opportunity.
Having met the prison director and fully shared his thoughts. Prison is re-education. It’s not custody.
I thank my company, Whirlpool, for this experience and for all the others that I will have the opportunity to live with my colleagues during the upcoming Community Day!
Serena Santarelli, Senior Legal Counsel, Italy Market & EMEA Consumer Service, Whirlpool EMEA