In Brazil, the Santa Rita do Sapucaí prison has taken a new approach in its attempts to produce green energy – they’re harnessing the pedal work of their inmates.
Granted they’ve started small, this still seems a step in the right direction for prisons, and environmental sustainability, simply by using an available resource: prisoners.
Exercise bikes have been placed in the courtyard of the Santa Rita do Sapucaí prison and are hooked up to batteries.
Prisoners’ kinetic energy is converted into electricity, which charges the battery, and a device on the handlebars alerts the rider when it’s time to stop and the battery is charged.
The fully charged batteries are then taken into the city and used to power street lamps.
One day’s cycling currently provides enough energy to run six light bulbs, but on a mass scale, the country’s prisoners could be a source of alternative energy for illuminating a city’s worth of streetlights – and removing a burden on the environment, and the taxpayer.
In order to incentivise the use of the bikes, city judge José Henrique Mallmann is waiving a day off the sentence of prisoners for every 16 hours of pedalling they complete. More bikes are on order following the success of the scheme.
The idea enables prisoners to keep fit, and wardens benefit from occupied detainees. Indeed, prawn power is a good idea.
There is stuff happening around South Africa, as Servamus, a monthly community-based safety and security magazine points out:
It would seem that the Department of Correctional Services has embraced the idea of self-sustainability. Correctional Centres in South Africa provide essential services to themselves and to each other, ostensibly to ease costs on the State.
In Boksburg, explained Const Moloi, there is a correctional centre where inmates’ clothing is manufactured by other inmates.
Yet other correctional centres maintain their own farms with livestock, such as cows and pigs, to provide the rest of the correctional centres in the country with meat and dairy. Pollsmoor even has a car wash and workshop where inmates keep their car maintenance skills sharpened.
Pollsmoor’s ground-breaking organic vegetable processing plant run by parolees and inmates, which pretty much supplies all their vegetable needs, is another example.
But there is a lot more we could do with our prisoners. More often than not, programmes of rehabilitation are left to people that aren’t employed by the government, or even while the offenders are still in prison.
Personally, I’d get them farming hemp. It’s a sustainable resource that can be used in many ways. For example, it’s good for making houses – something South Africa could always use.
What would you get prisoners to do?
If you have the time, this 24-minute short film about Solomon Madikane is worth watching. Solomon is a former prison warden who was so frustrated by the endless cycle of law-breaking and incarceration that he left his job and set up the Realistic prisoner reintegration programme in 2004 based in the Cape Flats townships.
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