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British Ambassador New University in Agadir Prison Gives Hope to Inmates

Rabat – After visiting a Moroccan prison, the British ambassador, to Morocco, Thomas Reilly, has drawn attention to the importance of reintegration.Reilly recently attended the inauguration ceremony of a university within the walls of the local Ait Melloul prison in Agadir.The purpose of the university is to “give prisoners hope of a different, better life after jail,” Reilly stated. There, Reilly met teachers who offered artistic lessons, such as painting, poetry, and woodwork to help inmates escape from the emotions of “despair” and give them the opportunity “to go back to school.”The initiative inspired the ambassador to write a LinkedIn post on his experience at the Agadir prison, stating: “It was a sobering, inspiring day. And I was reminded again that a society should not judge its strength by the number of weapons it owns, but by how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable.”The ambassador took the chance to address the psychological impact of incarceration, saying, “For many prisoners, being locked up brings emotions of despair, hopelessness, anger and a sense of helpless, morale-sapping darkness.”Reilly pointed out that “for some inmates those emotions existed before going to prison,” and, “It may even have been that inner turmoil that led to them committing their crimes in the first place.” Reilly believes that prisoners should be able to lead a better life after they come out of prison, and society should not give up on them.“Just because someone had committed a crime, society should not give up on them: doing so invites recidivism (with a higher long-term cost to society) and lost potential for the individual and the country,” Reilly wrote.Modern changes at Moroccan prisonsAgadir’s local prison was not Reilly’s first experience at a Moroccan prison. The ambassador visited Oukacha prison in Casablanca in September for the launch of “Idmaj,” the first prison radio project in the Middle East and North Africa region.The radio station is the fruit of collaboration between the General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration (DGAPR), the British embassy, and Penal Reform International (PRI).The project is part of the rehabilitation programs and “efforts to increase prisoners contact with the outside world,” wrote the embassy.In April, Morocco’s Penitentiary and Reintegration Administration organized a workshop for prison officials on the “treatment of prisoners and the prevention of torture.”The recent initiatives are in line with Morocco’s project to improve human rights in the day-to-day management of prisons.According to the general delegate for the penitentiary and reintegration administration, Mohamed Salah Tamek,  23,946 inmates from Moroccan prisons benefited from reintegration programs in 2017.The number represents a 36 percent increase compared to 2016.In the same year, 36,145 prisoners participated in a national competition program, excelling in sports, cultural, and religious fields.