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Thoughts about freedom: Young inmates make movies

© UNICEF/2013/C.Schuepp
Girls in Melitopol detention facility train to shoot movies.

Melitipol/Kharkiv, 15-23 March 2013 - the OneMinutesJr video workshop went behind bars. Two workshops each for four days were conducted in two detention facilities for children in Ukraine. The workshops were organized by UNICEF in Ukraine together with the EU and State Penitentiary Service. There were six such workshops conducted in Ukraine since 2007; however the current two are the first workshops for children in conflict with the law in Ukraine.

The first out of two workshops were held in Melitopol detention facility for girls. This is the only detention center for girls in Ukraine and there are a total of 86 inmates. The first impression is quite positive, if you can say that about a penitentiary. Security is tight, 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. The second facility where the workshop was held is Kuryazh Detention Facility for Boys. It is also very neat and well organized. 207 boys are currently serving their sentences there.

Fifteen children took part in each of two workshops. Most of them are there for theft and serve sentences of around four years, but some of them are also there 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 children have already been in a facility for a while, so they were only 14 or 15 years of age when they committed their crimes.
The first day of each workshop was devoted to writing of scenarios for future one minute movies as well as watching videos made at previous similar workshops in different countries. Boys in Kuryazh facility watched videos made by girls in Melitopol detention facility. Each participant then discussed the ideas with trainers separately. The next two days were about shooting the videos. Prior to that, participants were instructed about filming techniques as well as how to use the cameras, when to you use a tripod, when to you use the zoom and how to change the focus.

Almost each inmate in facilities comes from troubled families. Many grew up only with their mothers, many of them mentioned 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.

© UNICEF/Ukraine/2013/S.Prokhorov
Boys in Kuryaz detention facility write the scenarios for future movies.

The selection of topics for movies was mainly stipulated by specific life conditions the children lived in. Girls preferred to show the relations between parents and kids, since they don’t see each often and may not get enough of parental care. In the videos girls rendered all the emotions and feelings they wanted to share with their parents. Boys showed their former life and mistakes they did as well as a great desire to change the life.

At the presentation, the young film-makers are joined by other inmates, penitentiary staff and of course the Detention Facility management. What the films showed and what the interviews also made clear is the essence of the workshop: We need to make sure these children get a second chance and at the same time we need to work on preemptive measures to prevent other girls and boys from going through the same pain and the same loss of freedom.

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About UNICEF: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is a world leader on protection of child rights and best interests of a child. UNICEF is working on the ground in 190 countries to protect and support children from early childhood through adolescence. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. UNICEF opened its office in Ukraine in 1997. For more information: Follow us on Vkontakte, Twitter, Facebook


For further information, please contact:

Ruslana Sirman, UNICEF Kyiv,, Tel: +38 044 254 2450.

Sergiy Prokhorov, UNICEF Kyiv,, Tel: +38 044 254 2450.




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