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OneMinutesJr workshops on Juvenile Justice in Ukraine - Day 1

by Chris Schuepp

Melitopol, UKRAINE, 16 March 2013 - This week, the OneMinutesJr project goes behind bars. In two four-day workshops we visit the Melitopol Detention Facility for Girls and the Kharkiv Detention Facility for Boys, both in eastern Ukraine. The participants of the workshops are teenage inmates of the penitentiaries, first a group of 15 girls, then a group of 15 boys.

Introduction to the OneMinutesJr project - film viewing to demonstrate the power of the visual language to the participants. - UNICEF / Chris Schuepp / 2013

We start the day in Melitopol with a short tour of the Detention Facility. This is the only detention center for girls in Ukraine and there is a total of 86 inmates. The first impression is quite positive, if you can say that about a penitentiary. Security is tight, but the bedrooms, the canteen, the sports facilities and the classrooms are in good shape. It is obvious that the people in charge are making a great effort in creating a positive atmosphere for the inmates.

We are working with a group of 15 girls. Most of them are here for theft and serve sentences of around four years, but some of them are also here for much longer, serving sentences of eight or up to twelve years for manslaughter or murder. The average age of our workshop participants is around 18, but most of the girls have already been here for a while, so they were only 14 or 15 years of age when they committed their crimes.

Watching movies and discussing them is the first step to understanding how to film movies. - UNICEF / Chris Schuepp / 2013

In individual session with them we try to find out what kind of story ideas they have and what they want to say about their past, present or future. The overall impression we get is that the vast majority of them openly regret what they did. Some have tears in their eyes, especially when they talk about their relationship with their parents before and after they committed their crimes. All of them, without exception, come from troubled families. Many grew up only with their mothers, many of them mention that their parents were alcoholics, some were left by their parents altogether and handed over to a children's home when they were still very young. 

Brainstorming session at the OneMinutesJr workshop behind bars in Melitopol. - UNICEF / Chris Schuepp / 2013

We spend the whole afternoon asking questions to get a better understanding of their past problems and their visions for the future. Some great ideas are already on the table when we have to leave the Detention Facility and the young participants at 6 PM and everybody - children and trainers - are looking forward to the second day of the workshop.



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