Comunità di S.Egidio

Stefania Tallei


In Africa


Food distribution in the Pemba jail

In Mozambique many students of the Community go to visit the inmates in the prisons of Lichinga, of Cuamba, of Pemba. The prison visits began with dinners offered during feast days such as Christmas. The members of the Community, faced with the poverty and extreme need for food by the inmates, decided to focus on bringing food. Later on, the visits became more frequent and habitual and also the food programme, the distribution of clothing and of blankets was carried on a regular basis.

The greater part of the inmates are young and often illiterate, and therefore they have been introduced to literacy courses. It has also been necessary, however, to face the hygienic and environmental problems with projects for the restoration of the buildings. Also from this angle the prisons are unbearable. To this end the Community has set in motion various co-operative projects, among them the creation of clinics, new sanitation and handicraft workshops.

In Mozambique, as in Guinea Conakry, we have met young people who have been condemned for petty theft, for example, for having stolen food. Many of these crimes are punished only with fines, but those who cannot pay go to jail. Also those who are found to be drug addicts receive high fines, but the greater part of the young people who are punished cannot pay such high prices and thus end up in jail. For this reason, many minors have lost years of schooling. At Pemba, if one does not have money to pay the fine, it may happen that they remain in prison even when the time of their detention is finished.

Also in Mozambique, the Community intercedes in order to obtain the release of those who remain imprisoned and forgotten for years. In the Pemba prison, between 1998-99, there was a situation of extreme overcrowding precisely because of the too severe provisions in relationship to the crimes committed. There were, above all, many minor inmates. The young people of the Community established contacts with the Attorney and the Court favouring a rapid release of all those who had been imprisoned in an irregular manner or by particularly harsh sentences. The important turn of events which took place in the prison at Pemba started an effective and ongoing collaboration with the Attorney, creating conditions of trust on the part of institutions toward the initiatives of the Community, to the great advantage of the inmates.