Near the end of their terms some Swiss prisoners are put to work. Under certain conditions, a voluntary programme allows them to spend their their days working and their nights in an “open” centre.
They end up in workshops, kitchens or cleaning for the city of Geneva, before being released or deported to their home country.
The programme is designed to give prisoners a new routine and sense of normality before they resume regular life on the outside. One of three Albanians, put away for drug trafficking told Le Matin: “We get up and we work like normal people.” All three had volunteered for cleaning work paying CHF 18 per hour.
In Geneva, around 40 positions are offered on a voluntary basis to prisoners. “Qualifying is not automatic. There are more positions than prisoners who meet the conditions” said Laurent Forestier, spokesperson for Geneva’s prison office. All candidates for the programme are evaluated, some by a commission which looks at the level of danger they pose, and some are even examined by Geneva state counsellor Pierre Maudet himself.
One of the people in charge of these working prisoners said “You have to believe in giving people a second chance to do this job. If I were in their position I’d want someone to help me. I’m there to guide them before they return to normal life.”
Some have been cleaning the Sécheron school during the summer break. Others have been cleaning graffiti off public transport ticket machines in the city. Around 400 hundred are cleaned every year.
What about them escaping? “They’re not interested. They know they’ll end up behind bars again” said the officer in charge of the cleaning team.