By Badea Abu Al-Naja
DHAHBAN — The Central Prison in Dhahban, north of Jeddah, is one of the largest correction institutions in the Kingdom where many terror suspects are held.
The facility, which was opened in December 2015 with a capacity for 7,200 prisoners, currently holds about 6,000 inmates.
The prison continues to offer the inmates useful courses and programs that help them integrate in society and earn a decent living upon release after serving their prison sentences.
The latest course introduced by the prison management was sewing, which helped participants learn a new trade and equip them with skills to earn their livelihood.
Saudi Gazette interviewed a number of the participants in the course and asked them whether they thought enrolling in the program was helpful or not.
“I have taken several sewing courses and today I train participants on the techniques of sewing. Many of the inmates who enrolled in the courses encountered several difficulties at the beginning but quickly learned and perfected the trade,” said Yousef G., who has served one year of his five-year sentence. He was jailed for forgery.
Yousef is proud of helping prison mates acquire new skills.
The prison also offers courses in other trades and the inmates are free to choose the course they want.
Muhammad F. has become a sewing instructor, thanks to the intensive courses offered by the prison. He shows participants how to hold the tip of the thread and put it through the needle hole quickly and how to precisely cut a piece of textile to sew clothes.
“We helped the trainees sew the new prison uniform for the inmates. We showed them the design pattern and helped them through all sewing stages. Usually, it takes a participant a week or two before he can completely learn all the sewing techniques. This shows that most inmates are ready to learn a new trade quickly if they are given the proper training and necessary tools,” he explained, adding that the daily productivity of each participant differs. However, the daily average is 10 uniforms for each participant, or a total of 120 sets a day. Usually, new participants sew five sets a day.
Saeed B. did not know anything about sewing when he enrolled in the courses. However, he was able to pick up and master all the skills he and other participants were taught. The fierce competition among the participants made him work hard to excel. He can sew 10 sets of uniform a day.
Once sewed, the uniforms are sent to the quality control section where they will be either accepted or returned to the sewing section if the measurements are not precise.
Lt. Col. Fayez Al-Ahmari, director of Dhahban Prison, said the prison did not have specific uniforms for inmates when it opened. The management later decided to design a prison uniform with the help of the inmates. The decision gave the inmates the chance to learn a new trade and at the same time help the prison management achieve its goal.
“The prison directorate has financed the whole project and set up a tailoring workshop, which was equipped with all necessary sewing tools and machines. The inmates who work in the workshop produce 3,000 sets of uniform a month. We are now working on sewing uniforms for other prisons in the region and then we will expand the project to cover prisons Kingdom-wide,” he said.