France’s ‘Wake up Café’ initiative helps prisoners reduce the chances of re-offending as French prisons release 11,500 due to overcrowding.

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Wake up Café, reducing the chance of reoffence. Credit:Wake up Café

France’s ‘Wake up Café’ initiative helps prisoners reduce the chances of re-offending as French prisons release 11,500 due to overcrowding.

FRANCE has released roughly 11,500 prisoners so far from their overcrowded prisons during the Coronavirus crisis. Those incarcerated were within three months of completing their sentences or awaiting trial. While that may sound like good news for the newly liberated, it presents a whole new set of issues.
The rate of criminals re-offending in France is more than 60 per cent so to help reduce the chances, an organisation called Wake up Café has begun to work with those still imprisoned to provide training and support once they are released. Those lucky enough to be part of Wake up Café’s programme re-offend at a rate of less than 10 per cent.
The group is currently working with 215 people and experiencing the same kinds of disruptions the pandemic has caused everywhere as they have been unable to provide the individual, in-person support it normally does and has been relying on Zoom and on telephone calls.
“Being released early means that many prisoners didn’t have time to fully prepare for their freedom. Many of them are now living with family members in often small and over-crowded apartments,” said Marion Bonnot, development and sponsorship officer for Wake up Café. They don’t have jobs and aren’t able to get the training to help them find one. With the economy at a virtual standstill, doing so will be harder than ever.

Given the pandemic, those in jail are left with only difficult options: to be incarcerated in overcrowded prisons and risk infection or face the challenges of early release in a deteriorating economy.
“The public can play its part by doing what it can to help people reintegrate into society,” said Domitie Bourgain, sponsorship and communication manager for the organisation. “That includes hiring those recently released, volunteering to work with them and providing financial support to groups such as Wake up Café. If they are unable to find their place, the likelihood is they will be back in prison before long.”

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