The Humanitas360 Institute (H360) took US artist Liza Lou to the Women’s Correctional Facility (CRF in Portuguese) in Ananindeua, Pará, with the purpose of introducing the artist to COOSTAFE (Female Social Co-op of Art and Entrepreneurship), the first co-op exclusively composed by female inmates in Brazil.
Not only does the co-op allow women to develop handcraft skills producing household items, toys and others; it also allows them to generate income for their families while they are still serving time in prison. Thanks to the leadership of Dr. Carmen Botelho, who serves as the unit director, the CRF at Ananindeua has become a model for best practices in the country.
In partnership with the Social Observatory of Belém, Susipe (the public entity that manages the penitentiary system in the State of Pará) and the CRF, Humanitas360 aims to provide COOSTAFE members and Liza Lou a space in which they can create art together, develop new skills and increase the co-op’s visibility as a model to be replicated in other prisons in Brazil.
“Our institute is truly happy to be active in and to promote initiatives and ideas that aim to provide value and opportunities for citizens who find themselves forgotten by society. Our proposal is to articulate actions by the local government, civil society and the private sector, and together to take civic responsibility for those people. They have not lost their citizenship, they have only been deprived of their liberty,” said Patricia Marino, president of H360.
H360 also took advantage of the opportunity to sign a memorandum of understanding with Susipe in order to obtain legal standing and guarantee the evolution of the project, which is currently in the design and fundraising phase. The project is set out to begin in the second half of 2017.
“We need to mobilize society to promote a mindset change, so that others can see that the individuals who are here are capable of making beautiful things and that, through this work, they are able to change their outlook on their lives and their social behavior. These women need to feel useful, because we believe that a second chance is the opportunity for a new life,” said Botelho.