Voice from behind the bars

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August 2018 – Plock, Poland by Hubert Skrzynski

The project titled “Voice from behind bars” lasted from November 2017 through June 2018. So far we have managed to implement two editions. It was prepared in cooperation between “Busola” socially excluded education association, Penitentiary Unit in Płock and the Lifelong Learning Centre at the Płock Penitentiary. It was dedicated for teenagers from schools in Płock. It came into existence thanks to the financial support received from the Foundation “Fundusz Grantowy dla Płocka” (“Płock grant fund”) and from the Levi Strauss Foundation. The main beneficiaries were young people because it was thought that youthful age is the right time to prevent youngsters from negative behaviour that could have harmful effects in their later life.

The idea of doing such a project was born many years ago but only recently there have arisen favourable circumstances that allowed turning theory into practice. Where has the initiative come from? I think everyone realises that nowadays many young people do not have right exemplars to follow. Lifestyle is very dynamic and many of those young ones are lost in their lives, many a time they are neglected which very often leads to making wrong choices. This, in turn, may lead to pernicious effects. 


It was thought that prevention in the form of sitting meetings with prisoners could lead teenagers to afterthoughts over their own lives (or over lives of their close acquaintances who have problems) and later could possibly have positive effects on young people.

Thanks to the fact of getting to know with negative life experiences of other people (in this case – prisoners), young ones would hopefully consider the problem of making right choices in their lives and consequences of the negative ones. 


This thesis is not taken from any official document or a scientific piece of paper. It came out from the day-to-day observations, conversations with teachers, parents, etc. Everyone who was involved in creating the “Voice from behind bars” project is involved in education, so, the mentioned above concept is not unknown. What is more, we knew that teenage students in Płock did not have a chance to be a part of such meetings before, so we hoped that our idea would be accepted with recognition and the highest interest.


The main objective of the project was, first of all, to supplement educational offer of the schools where meetings were to be held, by introducing innovational and unparalleled event of organising advisory classes for young students. Specific goals, on the other hand, were to force students to reflect on their own behaviour, getting to know the youth of pernicious effects to which one can be led if made wrong choices. Apart from that, we wanted to exert emotions (positive or negative) which would make youngsters think over wrong choices in one’s life which, in effect, should lead to shaping positive social and civil attitude as well as shaping an attitude of a responsible human being. These emotions were to be exerted by visual effects. 


We also wanted to motivate learners to take responsibility for their behaviour and prevent them from reckless conduct and wrong decisions which would influence further life. These took place by organising advisory classes conducted by inmates.

Additionally, we prepared a mobile photo exhibition which was an accompanying event during the meeting in each school. Photographs from behind prison walls showed the everyday life of the imprisoned. Apart from chats with prisoners, young students had a chance to watch two films. One of them was a fictionalised film made by the District Prison Board in Warsaw and the Police Headquarters in Radom. 


This was a story of three young boys who, thanks to their irresponsible behaviour, went to  prison for many years – one for an assault, another one for battery with fatal effects and  the third one for causing a car accident while being drunk and under the influence of drugs, in which three people died. 


The second film is the author’s and an amateur film made by the originator of the project. This film shows conditions that inmates have in the Plock prison. The whole picture was set in a relatively negative way to show that prison is not a good place for anyone. All the named above undertakings were to lead to implementation intended plans.


Now, when we have already finished second edition of all of our activities connected with the project we can clearly state that all of the goals of the project have been accomplished. First of all, we managed to prepare a “product” that is a great supplement to schools’ educational activities. Schools do not have any possibilities to prepare such an advisory class within their own resources. If it comes to specific goals, we managed to force the young to reflect and thanks to the films and photographs presented during the meeting we managed to exert emotions within young learners.


Since we do not have control over these young people, we are not able to state whether  proper social or civic attitudes were formed. Nevertheless, thanks to the feedback that we  received from teachers who were present during our meetings, it turns out that they had a huge effect on learners, and one can believe that we accomplished our intentions. 


We do think our activities had strong preventive measures. Hopefully, students will prevent themselves from reckless behaviour and wrong decisions. During advisory classes in question,  we could easily notice how focused teenagers were when they were watching materials that had been prepared for them. All of the involved educators unanimously agreed that they had not seen their pupils so much focused for a very long time.


Altogether we managed to conduct all of the “lessons” that we had planned before the project started. There were sixteen of them, each took place in a different school. There were almost 1600 students that were present “live” during our meetings. If it comes to inmates, there were 27 of them who took part in the project. They all were students of the school in Plock prison. Taking into consideration that the penitentiary unit in Plock is of a closed regime, we should consider this as a big number.


One more, very positive outcome of our doings, is that 17 out of the 27 earlier mentioned inmates who were taking part in advisory classes, managed to get a parole. Being a part of the project had a huge impact on that. Apart from the four, further five prisoners/students of the Pł ock prison school, have high chances of getting their parole, too, in the nearest future. This is the highest value for inmates, something that counts the most for them. This fact needs to be treated as one of the biggest successes of our undertaking.


We deeply hope that we will be able to continue “Voice from behind bars” since it was (is) absolutely advantageous for all parties involved in it.