When I step inside the prison cells I can hardly believe this really is where these kids spent most of their days. A very small space, with nothing in it except for a few folded blankets. “This cell holds 42 prisoners”, the warden tells me. I see two boys playing a game, sitting on the stone floor.
The cells surround an open space, where the boys are released from 8 in the morning, till 3 in the afternoon. All of them are wearing white uniforms and I see about ten kids who’s feet are cuffed together. “This is a very mild punishment for when the prisoners misbehave,” the warden explains. I notice how the warden isn’t referring to them as ‘boys’, but strictly as ‘prisoners’. I ask the warden what they did to receive this ‘mild’ punishment and he explains they were trying to sell soap to the other prisoners. When I ask the warden what happens when the boys are getting a harder punishment he replies: “When the prisoners seriously misbehave, we take them back to court. Yes, back in the days we used to beat them, but we don’t do that now anymore.”
When I see the boys participating in the different workshops Young in Prison has to offer I can only imagine what a relieve it must be for them. An hour and a half, two times a week, they can fully engage themselves in a choir, dancing, or band class. The workshop facilitators are amazing. They don’t see the boys as prisoners, but as kids. All the boys are participating with great enthusiasm and the groups are growing bigger every week. “Before Young in Prison and Music Crossroads were here, it was a lot harder to control them,” the warden says. “There were a lot of fightings and even escapes. We notice how good it is to keep them busy. Their days go by a lot faster that way.”
I’m singing along with them in the choir until it’s time for us again to move out. While singing ‘God is holy, God is Mighty’, the boys form a line and the big iron door to the prison cells opens up. The boys step inside the walls, I step outside the walls.
“What a treasure freedom is”, I think to myself.