Art therapy for women inmates

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A historic collaboration was signed on February 15, 2019 between the Alliance Française of Suva and the Fiji Corrections Services (FCS) in Suva.

The MOU allows the Alliance Française of Suva to work in partnership with the Fiji Corrections Service Rehabilitation Department and the women inmates that at the Suva Rehabilitation Centre.

The project was initiated by the French Ambassador’s wife, Jane Seam and is supported by the Alliance Française of Suva, the French Embassy and the Fiji Corrections Service with funding from BRED Bank and Vinod Patel.

Mrs Seam says that the project aims to show how art images produced within this therapeutic milieu will enable the women to reconnect with disowned thoughts and feelings in a safe way from a safe space.

“By introducing Art and Hope to the female inmates at the Korovou Women’s Prison, we are confident that this safe space will give female inmates an opportunity to reflect on behavioural conduct as well as social acceptance,” she said.

The project, titled Art and Hope, will explore how art therapy can be deployed to establish empathy and communication between the female inmates and the public outside the prison environment.

Representing the FCS, Deputy Commissioner Senior Superintendent Apimeleki Taukei said art has a proven capability to rehabilitate inmates and also can be a means to earn an income later when they are released.

“We are glad that an art program is now being established specifically for our women, because we already have one going for the men under our care,’’ said SUPT Taukei.

“This initiative will strengthen entrepreneurial skills and the decision making facilities of the women under our care and at the same time ensure the successful and sustainable reintegration of inmates back into the real world.

“I must commend the Mrs Seam and the Alliance Francais for their vision, rehabilitation is not something we can do alone.”  

Mrs Seam said the project will hopefully help reduce the rate of recidivism among this vulnerable group.

“With poverty and challenges of employment accessibility often a driving force behind women imprisonment, it is crucial that these women are given an opportunity to participate in viable employment training opportunities post-release,’’ she said.

The Art and Hope project is three fold, (i) it serves as a bridge for the existing gap between the fields of criminology and art therapy, (ii) art therapy as a transformation on women’s lives and those around them, and (iii) art as base for financial livelihood through art projects, including visual arts, dance, writing, music and beautification projects. These art therapy trainings will be carried out by professionals that have availed themselves and are committed to this project.

Mrs Seam will coordinate the project with assistance from Suva-based artists, musicians and therapists and the Alliance Française of Suva. This partnership with the Fiji Corrections Service recognizes the art can give inmates a voice, a sense of self that could help them rise above the quagmire they have found themselves and bringing art therapy inside the walls is an act of social justice

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