Conditions in the Albanian prisons are inadequate, overcrowded, without necessary medical personnel and abused by those who suffer from mental health problems. Folders of the mentally ill have defined diagnoses that do not exist. European Institute of Tirana has a monitor in all prisons in the country and has submitted a detailed report. The study focused on how treated people with mental problems who are serving sentences in prisons. It is reported that 70% of prisoners suffer from mental disorders, which have either had or have acquired during their stay in prison. These people do not have the appropriate personnel to be treated by medical, lacking social workers and psychologists. Throughout the country there are only two psychologists who treat inmates with mental problems. Prisons are overcrowded. They have more prisoners than prison capacity. The further away from the major centres, the worst prison conditions are.
Across the country serving sentences in prisons are 4764 people, of which 125 minors, 87 women and 4552 men. 70% of prisoners suffer from mental disorders. Under the new law, all persons should be treated the same as those in prison as those who are out of prison, enjoy equal rights to obtain necessary medical service. The new law is effective, but it remains to be seen if it will be implemented or not.
Analysis and observations of the situation in prisons: The country has made significant cant progress in relation to detention centers but there are still many problems to be solved. The Council of Europe has considered how to improve the situation of prisons in some areas but has also identified many problems that require solutions. According to the observations, prisons in Albania are considered to be insufficient in services and in relationship to prisoner’s human rights and behavioural change.
Activities of negotiation with families: One of the most difficult and most necessary works is the reconciliation with families, especially for those who have committed a crime within the family. The important work is also to establish contacts with the family who visit prison to meet those who are convicted of blood feuds. In both cases, the negotiation is difficult, because it requires a lot of ti me but also a lot of movement and accrues heavy financial costs.
Weekly meting: Emotional support, Psychological support and Legal advice.
The work in women’s jail: The psychologist of MWL Women ACT, offering trainings and self-help group facilitation once a week.
Mary Ward Loreto has initiated a collaboration with Sole Centre who run a project in the women’s jail IEVP, Nr. 325 Ali Demi Tirane. The Sole project is for the reintegration into the community for imprisoned women. This is through developing employment skills and through human development programmes. MWL was invited to give its contribution and expertise in psychological empowerment with women inside the jail. The psychologist of MWL Women ACT is offering trainings and self-help group facilitation once a week.
Weekly training sessions and self-help groups or support groups, have started with 10 women. The main aim of these sessions is the rehabilitation of the women so they have a successful reintegration into society after their release and to enable them to live their lives in a more meaningful and a better adjusted way.
Life after a traumatic experience is never easy. For many of these women offenders, committing a crime has been a traumatic experience, and inprisonment confronts them even more with the consequences of their deeds. Furthermore prisons in Albania emphasise punishment to make up for the crime and has no sense of understanding the need for education for change. These women come from different areas of Albania with different cultures, different social issues and different approaches of facing life and problems. They have coped with different external and internal issues which led to their criminal activity and for which they were convicted. They have poor coping mechanisms therefore face them with frustration while interacting with each other.
In a two months period of time the sessions have been focused on providing an understanding of self-help groups, positive group dynamics and a sense of belonging to the group. The focus has also been on acceptance of differences and on building motivation for mutual support. These sessions offer the members a safe non-judgmental environment for self-disclosure where they can learn to explore themselves and share their stories, their feelings, and their issues. They are entering into e process of recovery and need to strengthen mutual support for each other leading to the mutual goal to help each other to cope with inprisonment during and after their sentence.
Do you know where I am?!
Monday morning, both hands loaded with snacks, drinks and authorizations, waiting with a group of very tired family members of prisoners, waiting to be controlled by the personnel and to enter to meet the group, in the Church, inside the prison, I read a big note, painted in an unpainted wall which said: Prisoners are deprived of; 1- Freedom of Speech, 2-Freedom of assembly, 3- The freedom of having a private life, 3- Freedom of movement. I was thinking to myself, what kind of life would that be? Sometimes, I think that I need them more than they need me. MWL Men has a weekly presence in the prison, and is trying to bring a bit of hope and courage to that dark place, full of young dreamers, who try to succeed in life without having a good example of how to do it, and who can only just about breathe. We make a reflection in the group about this and one of the guys who reads a lot said; they try to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds…But still we live in hope. MWL is going to follow them in their difficult journey and to plant hope even in the hardest lands.
Every Monday, the prisoners from Fush Kruje are very happy to know that at 11:00 they will have a visit from representatives of the project MWL Men. The conditions in Albanian prisons are miserable, lacking basic elements like drinking water or normal environments to sleep. Social services or recreational activities are very low. The presence of our foundation enables the prisoners to know they are not forgotten. It gives the men in the prison an incentive to survive and to forget the daily stress and trauma. A group of about 20 of the prisoners are part of the weekly meetings in which various problems are treated within the premises of the prison. They also tackle issues related to the larger society, sharing their common experience in discussion. MWL Men have the opportunity to undertake different initiatives to enable the people serving prison sentences, become more engaged in what is a very stifled environment. Often movies are shown with themes enabling the men to express their feelings, ideas and impressions of life as they see it. MWL Men intends to continue these activities and to expand them even more. “After you come to help in these prisons, you feel more than ever the need for MWL Men’s workers to be there at the time of such difficulty in the lives of these men.”
During this year the pastoral ministry in the Tirana/Durres prisons has continued with commitment. As the chaplain to these prisons there has been a consistency in assisting the prisoners according to their needs and the opportunities offered but also according to the rooms created by the institution for this important work. 360 Prisoners took part in the pastoral activities who are in constant need to grow spiritually. This is the paramount work but their needs for social assistance and materials are important and numerous because of the very reality in which they live.The opportunities to help are few, this is because of the large numbers, but also in relationship to the demand and the needs that they present. This may be dependent simply on the physical time which they require in measures which are impossible to fulfill within the given schedule of the visit. Please click here to read the progress report on the Prison Chaplaincy Project…