By Badea Abu Al-Naja
THE concept of prisons as people know it has changed. People used to describe prisons as a cemetery where there is no life, but not anymore. Today, prisons offers programs and workshops that focus on rehabilitating inmates and preparing them to lead a better life after serving their prison terms.
The Directorate of Prisons has, through educational, religious and technical programs and workshops, benefited all prison inmates and made them ready to be reintegrated in society and never commit crimes again.
Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Al-Hamzi, director general of prisons and Brig. Gen. Ayoub Naheet, director of public relations, helped Saudi Gazette meet some inmates and ask them about their stories.
A.S., 43, who requested anonymity, said he is an architectural engineer by profession. He has two wives and eight children. He has been in prison for three months in connection with an investment scam worth over SR11,000,000, of which he has paid back SR7,000,000 to shareholders and still owes the remaining SR4,000,000.
“I attend religious classes and perform the prayer in congregation. I have even filed a master degree application to pursue higher studies. I could not do any of these things when I was a free man,” he said.
Because of his good conduct, he was transferred to the cell specified for inmates with good conduct where they can enjoy watching sports channels and make phone calls.
J.G., 46 years old, is married with two kids. Before being incarcerated, he was the deputy principal of a school. He is imprisoned over a partnership project that he got involved in and could not pay back SR80 million raised from shareholders. He said he was implicated intentionally and someone framed him up. He has been in prison for ten years.
“So many reform programs have been introduced to the prison and various courses are offered to inmates to help them to adapt and find work when they get out,” he said.
In his opinion, a prisoner’s wife can play a big role in helping her husband get through this hardship. Unfortunately, some wives do not stand by their husbands and apply for divorce.
Luckily, J.G.’s wife has been his number one supporter all along; she visits him regularly and encourages him to be patient and tells him there is light at the end of the tunnel and one day he will see the light. The workshops offered at the prison have helped him learn a lot about technology.
F.F., 50 years old, is married with nine children. He has served three years of his 10-year sentence for drug abuse.
“My uncle was arrested for smoking hashish when I was only 16 years old. When I went to visit him, he asked me to get rid of all hashish from home. I learned from his friends that I could sell these cigarettes for money. I sold them and earned SR12,000. That is when I became an addict,” he said. He was arrested for selling drugs.
He has benefited a lot from the air-conditioning and refrigeration workshops and courses, which he has been attending over the past year. When he serves his term, he plans to start a small air-conditioning business.
Y.S., 40 years old, is single. He has served seven years of his nine-year prison sentence. He instigated a group of men to fight with one another and was sentenced to nine years.
He was scared when he was put in prison because he heard so many scary stories.
When inside, he discovered a different world. Most of the inmates showed regret and remorse for what they had done and showed great determination and strong will not to commit the same mistakes again. All this because of the various workshops and courses offered inside prison.
“I enrolled at Umm Al-Qura University’s distance program and I am going to graduate this year. I will complete my higher studies when I finish the undergraduate program,” he said.
M.H., 25 years old, a Ethiopian Christian, was arrested for theft. He has been in prison for a month. He met another Ethiopian prisoner who was imprisoned for a similar case after being sentenced to nine years. The latter is a Muslim who has attended many religion and Arabic classes inside the prison . M.H. spent most of the time learning about Islam from his compatriot until he embraced Islam.
Col. Salih Al-Qahtani, director of Makkah Prison, said the inmates helped organizing the activities of the 5th Gulf Prison Inmate Week in December 2016. “The Inmate Week focused on alleviating the psychological pressure some inmates suffer from while serving prison terms and increase public awareness of prison reformatory programs,” Al-Qahtani said.
The event explained to the public the importance of accepting prisoners back in society after they serve their prison terms, he added.