Shalom Life | July 03, 2015

Israeli Rehabilitation Program Pairs Prisoners with the Disabled

An award-winning program pairs Israeli prisoners with severely disabled residents of ALEH Negev, benefiting both partners and, ultimately, society

By: Abigail Klein Leichman

Published: July 1st, 2015 in News » Israel

Photo: Each prisoner volunteer chooses an ALEH resident to work with on a long-term basis

Credit: ISRAEL21c


In a way, they’re both imprisoned: the incarcerated criminals on account of misdeeds, the children and adults with severe disabilities on account of misfortune.

Pairing up convicted felons and helpless residents of ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, a rehabilitative village for 138 severely disabled Israelis, gives both populations a respite from their jail three times a week.

Every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, 26 prisoners from six southern jails shed their inmate garb and board a bus for ALEH-Negev. Volunteer coordinator Erez Naim meets them for a briefing before they fan out to work with more than 30 residents of all ages. Upon returning, each one discusses the experience with his social worker.

Whether the prisoners spend their time in the vocational training center, walking in the music garden or petting zoo, or helping dependent residents in the respiratory area, the exposure to ALEH residents, staff and volunteers motivates the prisoners to recalibrate their moral compasses and refocus outward.

“If you ask the prisoners what the volunteering means to them, they always say two things: First, ‘Before I came to this village I was never interested in volunteering.’ Second, ‘I’m in jail because I stole or did something else bad. Here I feel the residents are in a kind of jail because their body is so limited, and they stay in this jail all their life despite having done nothing wrong. I see now that I’m responsible for my life and I can make it better because I’m not helpless.’

“This is a wonderful way to rehabilitate prisoners,” says ALEH-Negev CEO Masada Sekely.

She credits corrections officer Mazal Yifrach with initiating this unique program, which won the Israel Prison Service an Offender Management and Reintegration Award in 2011 from the International Corrections and Prisons Association.

To continue reading, click here

Via ISRAEL21c

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