Pots and pans give inmates new hope in prison


US ambassador Shari Villarosa opening the new kitchen

This was made possible after the US embassy generously gave funds for a new kitchen for female prisoners and staff members at the mountain-top prison.

Prison authorities in Seychelles have long been looking for ways in which prisoners can be rehabilitated before being released back into the community and much emphasis is now being put on breaking the cycle of offending in prisoners, to reduce the likelihood of them committing more crimes upon release.

The chairperson of the Friends of Prisons Association, Marie-Claire Elizabeth, said the female inmates would now be able to play a decisive role in ensuring the nutritional value of the meals they eat, and said having control of the cooking space would help them create a stable and familiar environment for themselves.

“The inmates have been looking forward to demonstrating their culinary skills and getting others to appreciate their cooking in this lovely new kitchen,” said Ms Elizabeth.
“We often see cooking as a therapeutic activity because of the self-confidence it creates.”

“I think this kitchen is at the heart of all those things that Friends of Prisons is all about; ensuring that prison inmates have the possibility of self-expression and maintaining their identity, creativity and self-esteem. It is vital to prepare for life after prison, that inmates practise nurturing others.”

US ambassador Shari Villarosa said it had given her embassy great pleasure to fund the kitchen and its equipment.

“The United States believes strongly in empowering women to fully engage in their communities, in the economy, in politics and in all of society. We see this facility as providing the means for women here to learn the skills to provide healthy and nutritious meals, not only for themselves, but also to develop skills that they can use when they leave here and enable them to be constructive members of society.”

Ms Villarosa said she saw the new kitchen as a tool of empowerment.

“Not only will women learn food service and preparation skills, but they’ll learn how to manage and run a business, which then can help them to own and operate their own businesses and other community enterprises when they leave,” she said.

The superintendent of prisons Maxime Tirant said he believed the opening ceremony heralded an auspicious day for the prison service, and also explained that the kitchen had created a welcome diversion for the inmates.

 Father Brian Volcère showering his blessing on the new equipments in the presence of ambassador Villarosa, Friends of Prisons Association members and some female inmates

“Now everybody is very keen to demonstrate their cookery skills, and definitely everybody is enjoying what is happening. It is also a learning process because there is an exchange of skills and has generally been a very positive development,” he said.

Colin Craven, a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Prisons Learning and Skills consultant, said the kitchen would enhance the skills of the women and give them a chance at gaining employment or starting a small business.

“This may eventually become officially linked with the Seychelles Tourism Academy, so that we can actually do some accredited training. The point would be to give the women some form of qualification that they can use to their advantage when they go out again.”

Mr Craven is currently attached to the prison services to facilitate links with education and vocational skills providers in the community so that prisoners can work towards gaining accredited qualifications and skills before being released back into the community.