Nation (photos)

Inside Dubai jail where prisoners work and earn a living

Hesham Salah; Photos: M.Sajjad

Published on January 11, 2021 at 14.40

Inmates make hand-made products of premium quality, as correctional institution gives a second chance to convicts

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Correctional institutions in the UAE give a second chance to convicts to turn over a new leaf. Time spent in these institutions offer a ray of hope to individuals who may have committed a crime.
Inmates at Dubai’s correctional institutions get a chance to learn skills for possible new career options. They can also make some money while serving their time in prison.
Khaleej Times visited the Craft Section of Al Awair Central Jail, where the inmates make hand-made products that are of premium quality. These products are sold across the UAE and beyond in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and also in Europe.
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Hard at work
Inmates work in tandem to make clothes, face masks — a tell-tale sign of the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic — furniture etc. Lieutenant Khalifa Obaid Al Malih said sales figures of these products in 2018 and 2019 were Dh731,000 and Dh754,000, respectively.
The Craft Section had received an order for 251 chairs from the organisers of Expo 2020 Dubai. The order further motivated the inmates, as they were thrilled to know that their products would be on show at the gala event, which is on course to be held in October this year.
Al Malih said the organisers of Expo 2020 Dubai had placed another order and the work was in progress. “The inmates started making three-layer masks since the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in a bid to protect themselves from the contagion,” he added.
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Source of income
Each inmate receives a monthly stipend of Dh250 for their work and also 5 per cent of the profit from the sales of these products.
“The money is directly transferred to an inmate’s account. The inmates can use the sum to buy additional food and drinks from the correctional institution,” said Al Malih.
The inmates are also allowed to make fund transfers both in the UAE and abroad. An inmate can save his/her earnings and can start a new life with the savings on completion of sentence.
First Lieutenant Ali Abdul Rahman said the inmates made their own clothes.
The authorities at the Craft Section encourage the inmates by holding a contest and giving an award to the best performer. The products are available to buyers online, at the store in the correctional institution and also the Friday Market.
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Making the products
Dubai Police authorities provide high-quality raw materials to the inmates, who make premium finished products. Rahman said in the last contest, an inmate won an iPad, which encouraged all of them to work harder and in harmony.
“We treat the inmates as our brothers and sisters. One mistake in life doesn’t make them a lesser mortal. We share amazing life stories with them, as we do with our family and friends,” Rahman said.
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A typical day
Khaleej Times got an up, close and personal feel of the convivial environs of the correctional institution.
Typically, the inmates start their day at 8am and finish their work at 12.30pm. In their leisure time, they play sports, read and indulge in other recreational pursuits.
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Work atmosphere
“The inmates are always in high spirits. They enjoy what they do. They learn new skills, which come in handy after they get out of the correctional institution. These life skills help them in their second innings,” Rahman added.
The Crafts Section has 138 inmates, including 97 men and 41 women.
Majority of the inmates are of Asian origin, but there are people from Africa, Europe and South America as well.
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