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News and Events

27.02.2018

PIN Supports Former Prisoners Re-entering Society

Second Chance: A Life redeemed and redefined.

 

Mamuka is from Gori. He starts a typical morning with the pleasant chore of taking care of his beehives. ‘Beekeeper’ is Mamuka’s new profession but there’s nothing typical about Mamuka’s story.

 

 

Three years ago, beekeeping wasn’t something Mamuka was thinking about.  But now he has hope and a growing determination to build a successful business and have a prosperous future. Mamuka’s new beekeeping venture feels like the beginning of the end after a series of nightmares that overwhelmed him and his family because he was in jail.   

 

He sees beekeeping as a godsend-opportunity and a second chance to start a new life.

 

In order to understand the full story and significance, let us roll back the clock to 2015.

 

In 2015, Mamuka Mariamidze was a pretty average 41 year old man with no criminal record, he was completely law-abiding.

 

Most unfortunately though, one day he was arrested for possessing a gun and ultimately was sentenced to five years in jail. Jail for a man who had never been there before and had never had any association with criminals appeared to be a real hell. It was not only a great personal tragedy but the suffering swept through his family - his wife, 15 year old son and his father. Every close member of Mamuka’s family suffered. After six months of his imprisonment, Mamuka’s father was overwhelmed by this tragedy and passed away from a heart attack. In the course of one year, Mamuka’s life had become a real nightmare.

 

He describes how his life went downhill after entering prison: “Life in prison was more than bleak. It was despair as I experienced stress by  Days turning into weeks, weeks turning into months, months turning into years and years turning into decades. As I lay in a jail cell, with walls closing in around me, I didn’t know how to make sense of my life.”

 

Fortune came back slowly into his life. He has a loving family who never abandoned him. They gave him the strength and courage to fight, survive and hope of returning to a normal life. While in prison, he started to change his life. He quit smoking and started physical training. And after two years, his sentence was commuted because of good behaviour and he was released.

 

He became a free man again, but he was stigmatized in society because of his conviction. Because he had been in prison, he re-entered society with an almost insurmountable handicap. If one had a job before the custody, it would be almost impossible to be hired again after leaving the jail. Friends? They have moved on and have forgotten you. Because of this and many other reasons, the person feels lost in the world and there is an invisible stigma attached to that deters him/her from finding a job so that one can start a normal life again.

 

As Mamuka tried to restart his life and find regular functions again, he realized that life on the outside of prison would be a huge challenge for him. He was not able to find a job as no one wanted to hire him.

 

Mamuka’s situation was not unique. It is common that stigma and difficulties follow all ex-prisoners. Because of systemic legal and societal barriers in Georgia, once ex-prisoners are released, everything is more difficult for them compared to other people: finding employment, let alone having a normal life. Another painful issue for ex-offenders is the rehabilitation from the psychological trauma of being in prison. Overcoming the many seen and unseen barriers require time as well; support from family and friends, and counselling from professionals is crucial. Because of the many problems ex-prisoners face, they often remain hostages of the time they spent in prison. In most cases, they never return to a “normal” life.

 

Project “New Way”

 

In 2016, to support the re-socialization of people like Mamuka, People in Need supported an innovative project of local Union "Step to the Future" in Gori. The purpose of the project, “New Way”, was to improve the social and economic conditions of the people in the villages of Gori municipality who had been convicted of a crime and promote their rehabilitation and re-socialization.

 

The project supported ex-offenders through trainings to develop entrepreneurial skills and provide them with basic amenities and services for starting small, private enterprises. The project also offered intensive support from psycho-social professionals.

 

Candidates for the program were selected through interviews and evaluations. Out of a large pool of ex-offenders, Union "Step to the Future" selected 10 participants who had recently been released. These individuals went through a biopsychosocial assessment. As a result, the social, medical, psychological and economic needs of the persons and their family members were identified.

 

Mamuka was among these 10 selected. He was soon provided with a 4-month extensive course in beekeeping and received a grant that included several beehives and the necessary equipment to start a beekeeping business.

 

As part of the programme and in addition to developing practical skills in apiculture, Mamuka together with other beneficiaries of the project and beekeeping trainers took part in a field trip to the region of Kakheti. There, Mamuka visited Taplikatsi Ltd, a well-known beekeeping enterprise that is located in the Alaverdi Monastery.

 

Taplikasti is a nationally-recognized beekeeping complex that brings visitors and guests together with a highly-trained educational and scientific staff. Visitors and guests tour and see demonstrations in the honey processing plant, as well as active-production beehives, honeycombs, and other apiculture facilities.

 

The field trip turned out to be not only highly interesting but motivational for Mamuka as it gave him ideas and the inspiration to add more beehives to his start-up hives and develop it as a serious business.

 

As a result of the “New Way” project and this trip, Mamuka reached a turning point in his life. He and his family are now actively engaged in beekeeping and have found new meaning of life.

 

This positive turnaround was a real confidence boost for Mamuka. Soon after, he took part in "Produce in Georgia" - a business support programme sponsored by the government. In this programme, his enthusiasm and determination were immediately noticed and he was awarded with a chicken incubator. With this interesting, unrelated and somewhat surprising award, he started another new business.

 

Currently, Mamuka and his family are actively involved in beekeeping and poultry farming – a dream that he could not even imagine a few months ago.

 

Inspired by his recent successes that were germinated in the “New Way” program, Mamuka is a changed person. Once despairing and hopeless, he now sees a bright future ahead. Possibilities are boundless and his planning is ambitious. He reads a lot and is actively using the internet to further improve his knowledge in beekeeping and poultry farming. He keeps a busy schedule and this helps him put the worst two years in his life behind.

 

Mamuka’s case is a real example that supporting prisoners after their release to re-enter society is critically important on the state as well as the civil society level

 

Even though the PIN project managed to support a few people, there are many other organizations working to remove obstacles like those mentioned in Mamuka's case. But the Government’s role is most important as the revisions in policy must occur before ex-offenders can have real opportunities that promote success and help to reduce recidivism. Citizens and civil society organizations roles are also very important to push the state for the necessary policy-level changes.

 

Besides the project "New Way" PIN under the social programme supported three other innovational social services in Gori municipality, such as Hot Meals Delivery, Social Laundry and Home Care Service for socially unprotected elderly people of Gori Municipality.  All these services are oriented on the long run.  Starting from 2018 they will be financed by the municipal budget.

 

As for the project “New Way”, Nanuka Peradze PIN social project  coordinator  says it best: “If we can save one person and re-integrate him into an active place in society where he can sleep at home and raise a family, we’ve done our jobs.”

 

 

Author: Ramaz Chichinadze 

p>

 

Mamuka is from Gori. He starts a typical morning with the pleasant chore of taking care of his beehives. ‘Beekeeper’ is Mamuka’s new profession but there’s nothing typical about Mamuka’s story.

 

 

Three years ago, beekeeping wasn’t something Mamuka was thinking about.  But now he has hope and a growing determination to build a successful business and have a prosperous future. Mamuka’s new beekeeping venture feels like the beginning of the end after a series of nightmares that overwhelmed him and his family because he was in jail.   

 

He sees beekeeping as a godsend-opportunity and a second chance to start a new life.

 

In order to understand the full story and significance, let us roll back the clock to 2015.

 

In 2015, Mamuka Mariamidze was a pretty average 41 year old man with no criminal record, he was completely law-abiding.

 

Most unfortunately though, one day he was arrested for possessing a gun and ultimately was sentenced to five years in jail. Jail for a man who had never been there before and had never had any association with criminals appeared to be a real hell. It was not only a great personal tragedy but the suffering swept through his family - his wife, 15 year old son and his father. Every close member of Mamuka’s family suffered. After six months of his imprisonment, Mamuka’s father was overwhelmed by this tragedy and passed away from a heart attack. In the course of one year, Mamuka’s life had become a real nightmare.

 

He describes how his life went downhill after entering prison: “Life in prison was more than bleak. It was despair as I experienced stress by  Days turning into weeks, weeks turning into months, months turning into years and years turning into decades. As I lay in a jail cell, with walls closing in around me, I didn’t know how to make sense of my life.”

 

Fortune came back slowly into his life. He has a loving family who never abandoned him. They gave him the strength and courage to fight, survive and hope of returning to a normal life. While in prison, he started to change his life. He quit smoking and started physical training. And after two years, his sentence was commuted because of good behaviour and he was released.

 

He became a free man again, but he was stigmatized in society because of his conviction. Because he had been in prison, he re-entered society with an almost insurmountable handicap. If one had a job before the custody, it would be almost impossible to be hired again after leaving the jail. Friends? They have moved on and have forgotten you. Because of this and many other reasons, the person feels lost in the world and there is an invisible stigma attached to that deters him/her from finding a job so that one can start a normal life again.

 

As Mamuka tried to restart his life and find regular functions again, he realized that life on the outside of prison would be a huge challenge for him. He was not able to find a job as no one wanted to hire him.

 

Mamuka’s situation was not unique. It is common that stigma and difficulties follow all ex-prisoners. Because of systemic legal and societal barriers in Georgia, once ex-prisoners are released, everything is more difficult for them compared to other people: finding employment, let alone having a normal life. Another painful issue for ex-offenders is the rehabilitation from the psychological trauma of being in prison. Overcoming the many seen and unseen barriers require time as well; support from family and friends, and counselling from professionals is crucial. Because of the many problems ex-prisoners face, they often remain hostages of the time they spent in prison. In most cases, they never return to a “normal” life.

 

Project “New Way”

 

In 2016, to support the re-socialization of people like Mamuka, People in Need supported an innovative project of local Union "Step to the Future" in Gori. The purpose of the project, “New Way”, was to improve the social and economic conditions of the people in the villages of Gori municipality who had been convicted of a crime and promote their rehabilitation and re-socialization.

 

The project supported ex-offenders through trainings to develop entrepreneurial skills and provide them with basic amenities and services for starting small, private enterprises. The project also offered intensive support from psycho-social professionals.

 

Candidates for the program were selected through interviews and evaluations. Out of a large pool of ex-offenders, Union "Step to the Future" selected 10 participants who had recently been released. These individuals went through a biopsychosocial assessment. As a result, the social, medical, psychological and economic needs of the persons and their family members were identified.

 

Mamuka was among these 10 selected. He was soon provided with a 4-month extensive course in beekeeping and received a grant that included several beehives and the necessary equipment to start a beekeeping business.

 

As part of the programme and in addition to developing practical skills in apiculture, Mamuka together with other beneficiaries of the project and beekeeping trainers took part in a field trip to the region of Kakheti. There, Mamuka visited Taplikatsi Ltd, a well-known beekeeping enterprise that is located in the Alaverdi Monastery.

 

Taplikasti is a nationally-recognized beekeeping complex that brings visitors and guests together with a highly-trained educational and scientific staff. Visitors and guests tour and see demonstrations in the honey processing plant, as well as active-production beehives, honeycombs, and other apiculture facilities.

 

The field trip turned out to be not only highly interesting but motivational for Mamuka as it gave him ideas and the inspiration to add more beehives to his start-up hives and develop it as a serious business.

 

As a result of the “New Way” project and this trip, Mamuka reached a turning point in his life. He and his family are now actively engaged in beekeeping and have found new meaning of life.

 

This positive turnaround was a real confidence boost for Mamuka. Soon after, he took part in "Produce in Georgia" - a business support programme sponsored by the government. In this programme, his enthusiasm and determination were immediately noticed and he was awarded with a chicken incubator. With this interesting, unrelated and somewhat surprising award, he started another new business.

 

Currently, Mamuka and his family are actively involved in beekeeping and poultry farming – a dream that he could not even imagine a few months ago.

 

Inspired by his recent successes that were germinated in the “New Way” program, Mamuka is a changed person. Once despairing and hopeless, he now sees a bright future ahead. Possibilities are boundless and his planning is ambitious. He reads a lot and is actively using the internet to further improve his knowledge in beekeeping and poultry farming. He keeps a busy schedule and this helps him put the worst two years in his life behind.

 

Mamuka’s case is a real example that supporting prisoners after their release to re-enter society is critically important on the state as well as the civil society level

 

Even though the PIN project managed to support a few people, there are many other organizations working to remove obstacles like those mentioned in Mamuka's case. But the Government’s role is most important as the revisions in policy must occur before ex-offenders can have real opportunities that promote success and help to reduce recidivism. Citizens and civil society organizations roles are also very important to push the state for the necessary policy-level changes.

 

Besides the project "New Way" PIN under the social programme supported three other innovational social services in Gori municipality, such as Hot Meals Delivery, Social Laundry and Home Care Service for socially unprotected elderly people of Gori Municipality.  All these services are oriented on the long run.  Starting from 2018 they will be financed by the municipal budget.

 

As for the project “New Way”, Nanuka Peradze PIN social project  coordinator  says it best: “If we can save one person and re-integrate him into an active place in society where he can sleep at home and raise a family, we’ve done our jobs.”

 

 

Author: Ramaz Chichinadze 

PIN in the News

14.02.2018

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