This Life Beyond Bars (TLBB) offers young men in prison the prospect of a brighter future. Providing vocational and life skills training, and family visitation support the program gives these young men marketable skills, counseling, family connection and hope. Post-release support is provided to ensure successful reintegration with their families and their communities after prison.
“We started the program in 2010 in Siem Reap and now operate in three prisons with 80 students. 105 young adults who participated in TLBB are now back in their communities, working and getting on with their lives” said Rachel Watkins, Children & Families Section Lead at This Life Cambodia. “One of the most important aspects of the program is visitation and family reunification. When family connections are severed, the mental and emotional well-being of these children is greatly impacted”, she added.
“My family provided me with encouragement to keep positive and strong… They encouraged me not to be hopeless and to focus on my study. Even when we talked on the phone, my father said ‘I am very proud of you – I count on you – you need to be a good boy when you come back home’. His words made me awaken from my past and I became more motivated to study… Now I feel that my future is okay because they encouraged me.” (Seiha)
In May 2016, TLC entered into a partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross to introduce this innovative program into CC2 Prison in Phnom Penh. Part of what impressed the ICRC was the program’s success rate:
“According to This Life Cambodia, the recidivism (or reoffending) rate of students who participate in This Life Beyond Bars sits at only 2% within the first 6 months, and 4% in total. Prior to the existence of this program, a TLC study revealed that 60% of juveniles released from Siem Reap prison were reoffending within the first 6 months of their release”, said Elijah Penner, Detention Team Leader, of the ICRC. “While we were impressed with the success rate of the program reported by TLC, we are confident that the positive approaches developed within this partnership can be applied across Cambodia”, Penner added.
“Before doing the course … I was worried I would have nothing to do when I came out of the prison if I didn’t have a specific skill … even though we are illiterate, I think if we have moto repair skills with some tools and equipment, then I think we can get a job” (Kumpheak – student)