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OneMinutesJr workshops on Juvenile Justice in Ukraine - Day 8

by Chris Schuepp

Kharkiv, UKRAINE, 23 March 2013 - Today we finish the OneMinutesJr workshop in the Kuryazh Youth Correctional Facility for Boys outside of Kharkiv with a big film presentation in front of almost all of the 200 inmates and a number of wardens.

But before we can go from our workshop space in the penitentiary school building to the "club", a big auditorium on the ground floor of the old monastery building that is part of the penitentiary, we have to put the finishing touches to the films and the participants have to fill in the OneMinutesJr competition forms.

Then it is time for the presentation and the "club" is filling up quickly. A welcome break for the inmates from the daily routine here in the penitentiary. There is no Internet here, no mobile phones, very little TV. So whenever the administration invites a theater group or there is a film screening, like today, the teenagers seem to leave the inside of the institution in their imagination at least for a little while.

When the films come on, it is obvious that many boys from the audience find themselves in the films as well. The stories here are all alike: Neglected by parents, early contact alcohol and other drugs, found the wrong friends, first contact with the police, suspended sentence, second contact with the police, prison sentence. The typical "career" of a juvenile delinquent here in Ukraine. 

And still, some of them feel safer here than "out there", they get help with their drug problems, they can go to school, they find new friends. And still this is a penitentiary with basically no privacy for the boys, disconnected from the new technologies, disconnected from what remains of their families, disconnected from friends.

The workshop group had a lot of fun this week and got a lot accomplished. The 15 boys opened up, they told their stories, they made pledges for the future. Roman (17) said at the end: "It was completely different from how I expected it. I thought it would be more serious. I mean, the films are serious, but the way we produced them was so much fun and the time passed very quickly. Thank you for the great experience."



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