PEOPLE | Mar 8, 2017

A story of women, special projects and second chances

Engineering and Socially Made in Italy are giving new life to communication materials and much more

11 craft workshops of excellence in 11 different Italian prisons, 60 female and 10 male prisoners employed, a social cooperative, Alice, which has celebrated 25 years of activities in support of the reintegration of prisoners, and a level of recurrence that falls to 10% when people in prison are given the opportunity to work. These are the figures that sum up a reality and a social project. The “who we are”

The “how we are” on the other hand is not told only by figures but also by stories. Like the one we decided to recount today to talk about women, about new blossoming, about second chances not second-hand.

Every year – says Concetta Lattanzio, Engineering’s Director of Communications – we participate in dozens of events, seminars, stands, exhibitions and each time, together with our interventions, we present communication material that talks about us: roll-ups, banners, panels (mostly PVC) which carry our image, our messages, the number of employees, offices, group companies, the countries in which we work. Material that often ends up in stores, but, as we have shown thanks to our partnership with Socially Made in Italy, can have a second chance.

In this way, thanks to the work of the inmates of the prison in Venice, Engineering’s PVCs were turned into beautiful eco-friendly bags and articles presented during the last company kick-off.

We have recovered, measured, cleaned, boxed and sent all the material to the prison in Venice as recounted by the video we shot, continues Concetta. And everything has a meaning that goes far beyond the simple desire to keep material for reuse. It is a project that tells the story of our sustainability and commitment to the community, even the one that is least visible.

The proceeds from the sale of “revitalized” objects will, in fact, be invested to finance training courses for young prisoners who will be able to construct professionalism and a future.

Nothing rehabilitates adults socially more than work: says Caterina Micolano, Project Manager for the Alice cooperative who has worked with prisoners for over 22 years. Practically more than a life sentence, she says jokingly. Dignity and social role come from work and this is why we consider it essential to help people rebuild their professional pathway through social enterprise, which has competitiveness as its goal. If Alice can boast such a long history it is precisely because we have always thought of creating products by employing people in need, without basing the business model more on emotion than on the conviction of quality. The products we create in prison sell because they are well made and competitive on the market.

So, no philanthropy but turnover. No feminism in the involvement of women but only a necessity: that of providing more assistance to people living in the worst conditions in prison.

Female detention in Italy represents less than 5% of the total prison population (about 2,140 prisoners) and is present in five institutes exclusively for women (Trani, Pozzuoli, Rome Rebibbia, Empoli, Venice-Giudecca) and 52 women’s sections. The small percentage of women in prison makes the detention environment of women “less visible”; they live in a setting where the structure, rules, relations and experience have been made and designed by and for men.

Women not only live in the worst conditions, continues Caterina, but also have far fewer educational and recreational opportunities than their male colleagues. And this is why our first workshops have been designed to give them a chance.

Tailoring, workshops that create PVC and leather accessories with the “Malefatte” (Wrongdoings) brand, a cosmetics workshop, an organic garden, screen-printing for fair trade T-shirts, partnerships with experienced craftspersons and major brands, a production system (Sigillo) certified by the Ministry of Justice which guarantees the respect of trade union agreements. This is what the social cooperative has done, investing in people, in their potential.

Thanks to the support of leading figures of Made in Italy and haute couture that have believed in our project, continues Caterina, we significantly upgraded important skills that have led us to see objects transformed into real design products.

Excellent workmanship using waste materials from the fashion industry which would only have caused pollution in the case of disposal.

Their products concludes Concetta, tell a story of commitment, ethics and care for the environment: their entire output is special because it brings with it the story of the hands that have worked it, made of tortuous pasts, presents of commitment and expectations of better futures.

Second chances. Second lives. Often better than the first.