VIDEO | Resocialization in prisons: How the offender's path does not lead back behind bars

Aleksandar Koviloski, M.Sc. and Gjorge Todorov, Ph.D./Photo: Sloboden Pechat/ Mete Zdraev

The documentary film "The Path of the Criminal", by the authors Aleksandar Kovilovski, MSc and Gjorge Todorov, PhD, employed as educators or, following the new systematization, counselors for the treatment of convicted persons in the largest prison KPU Idrizovo, was promoted in the full hall of the Cinematheque of Macedonia. , ie KPU Prison - Skopje. The film is an insider's story about the treatment of convicted persons, told directly by employees of the resocialization departments, but also convicted persons and those who are already free after serving their prison sentence.

- The prison is a mirror of the society in which we live, is the motto of the movie "The Way of the Criminal". This means that when we talk about the situation in the prison, we must refer to the situation that prevails in society, in the country in which we live. The conditions we have outside are also inside. In the context of resocialization, external factors influence here and it depends on them whether it will be successful or not. Currently, the process of resocialization takes place according to programs of specific treatment and group treatment, says Aleksandar Koviloski, MA, senior associate for the treatment of convicted persons at KPU Idrizovo.

- The specific programs relate primarily to persons sentenced to long life sentences, a specific program for persons convicted of violence, for female criminals, for sex offenders, etc. and refer primarily to longer sentences served by convicted persons. In that direction, we also have regular programs such as employment, educational programs. And that makes resocialization a compact part, says Dr. Gjorge Todorov, counselor for the treatment of convicted persons in KPU Zatvor - Skopje.

The problem, the interlocutors from the two penal institutions in the Skopje area tell "Sloboden Pechat", is that there are a large number of convicted persons, as opposed to a small number of educators who should work on their resocialization. The regulations on paper say one thing, but the real situation in prisons is completely different.

- Legally, we have to work with groups of 15 to 30 convicted persons. If we are educators in the closed class, in groups of 15 people. Educators in the open or semi-open class should have up to 30 people maximum. We currently have 150 convicted persons. It is a problem that needs to be worked on. More employment is needed in the resocialization sector in order to enable us to implement resocialization the way it is written in the textbooks, says Koviloski.

Aleksandar Koviloski, MSc, senior associate for the treatment of convicted persons at KPU Idrizovo/Photo: Sloboden pechat/ Metodi Zdraev

- Each director of the establishments makes an annual plan and requests employees as needed. As some are retiring, others should be hired in their place and based on that annual plan, notifications are sent as to how many people are needed. It's not that we don't have jobs, but more is needed both in the prison police and in the resocialization sector, explains Todorov.

Statistics show that currently over 2400 convicts are serving prison terms in prisons across the country, and even half of them are returnees. Prison educators who are experts, pedagogues, sociologists, psychologists say that it is difficult to work with convicted persons, and the convicts themselves admit in the documentary that among them there are such characters who do not accept the treatment of resocialization.

- In the documentary we said: Everything in and around the prison is shrouded in blackness. It is very difficult to work with people who are isolated from the outside world, who are isolated from their families, and who have their own needs, which are interrupted in some way by their stay in the institution. Let's not overlook the fact that they have committed crimes and need to spend a certain period of time in penal institutions. However, that stay should not be imposed as something negative but as something positive, i.e. that a process of resocialization aimed at maintaining family contacts, establishing an educational system inside the institution, work engagements, etc. should be implemented, says Koviloski.

- In fact, the prison should train the convicted persons so that when they get out they can function normally according to the laws and rules that are provided in society, but society itself must be the link to their exit, that means accept them, when we talk about the post-penal help, says Todorov.

Dr. Gjorge Todorov, counselor for the treatment of convicted persons in KPU Prison - Skopje/Photo: Sloboden Pechat/ Metodi Zdraev

- It is specific to work with convicted persons because when they come here they often experience deprivations, i.e. something that's been taken away from them, they've been taken away from their freedom, they've been taken away from family contact and we're trying, because prison is kind of an artificial environment, to cushion all of that so that the convicted person can see that they can function, yes to correct himself, to understand, to have in him an internal motivation to change all that, to give him time to think about why negative influences or negative thoughts brought him to this point where he is now, all in order to be able to successfully integrate further in the social environment, says Todorov.

On the other hand, Koviloski adds, in addition to deprivations, when they come to the institution, convicted persons also have cognitive distortions, that is, they come with a different perception than the one in reality, and this is a challenge for educators who have to implement resocialization in prisons.

- When convicted persons come to the institution, they usually come either disappointed by some other persons, and quite often disappointed by the system. We are part of that system and it is very difficult to gain the trust of these convicts and to "make" them participate in any program that we prepare, says Koviloski.

– They come with certain attitudes and habits that are difficult to change. It is up to us to do our best to tell the convicted person all this so that, in a way, he can regain his self-confidence, see that he really possesses some positive elements in his personality, which he did not know, but may have been overlooked, but he did not have the opportunity to implement them and, based on that, encourage him to have some motivation to change something in himself, adds Todorov.

What would help a lot in resocialization, according to the interlocutors, is the improvement of conditions in prisons and the return of the prison economy. Namely, more than a decade ago, the economic activity in KPU Idrizovo, which included animal husbandry and the Preporod work unit, was disbanded. In this way, working habits and productivity are created among the convicts, which would help them in life outside the prison walls. Even the perception of the citizens towards the convicts would change if they had in front of them visible and quality products created in prison conditions, as was the case in the past in KPU Idrizovo.

-The system as it is set up is good, we just need to work on something that has been forgotten or that has been removed to restart it. In particular, here is the return of economic units through which there will be structuring of the working day. It stands in the house lines where you have getting up, waking up, making the bed, etc. so a series of daily activities through which the convicted person will be constantly engaged. Older colleagues said that they worked with Makarenko, the school for adult education, and there were people who were finishing their education or getting educated in prisons. According to all our laws and European rules, it is not written on the diploma that it was obtained in prison so that there is no discrimination, explains Todorov.

- In the film, all the educators express the same view that education and work commitment are the main factors for resocialization, instead of aimlessly serving the prison sentence, it is much better to have a structured working day, they will have work responsibilities and they will acquire some vocational education that will they can use it after they leave the outside environment, says Koviloski and adds that resocialization continues outside the institution, but there the person is faced with stigmatization, unemployment, lack of housing conditions, lack of social assistance, etc., which makes him a potential a returnee if he returns to criminal waters again.

The documentary "The Way of the Criminal" will be promoted these days before the expert panel in Tirana, and it will premiere in Belgrade, Mostar, Sofia, say the authors and add that it is a good read for any official who wants to make changes in the prison system in Macedonia because it very specifically captures all the problematic points that need to be worked on in the future.


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