Blogs as a place of freedom in prison
Cultural extension workshop
Lola Burgos, Jorge Franganillo, Aída García and Cristina Tomàs
Juvenile Detention Facility in Barcelona
Modern societies, known as information societies, are experimenting large cultural, socio-economic and technological changes. In such a variable scenario, access to information and new technologies becomes decisive, especially for people in prison. Individuals who have served in prison long periods of time will have difficulties reinstating back into society and understanding the technological changes that have occurred unless given the opportunity to experiment them and to assimilate them during their time in prison.
Without this opportunity, the purpose of prisons becomes fossilised unable to provide prisoners a future once inmates gain back freedom, and therefore impeding them to reach the main objective of the penitentiary system: social and labour rehabilitation of offenders. For this reason, penitentiary policy should include continuous learning programs designed to facilitate their reinsertion into society, and in this context, the prison's library can play a decisive role.
Internet and the prison library
Inmates have in the Internet and in the library two important tools that can help them in their cultural enhancement and in their personal development, because thanks to them they can improve the conditions they will face when reinstated into society. The mission of the library, although limited by it being a prison library, can be extended to infinity thanks to the Internet and to the capability of being present in the net —especially as to having voice and dialogue—. Inmates can go beyond the limits of prison and find a space of free and creative expression, universal and with equal rights, which will enrich them personally as well as to the prison environment itself. Contact with the internet may turn away the danger of isolation brought about by prisons being during a long time the only living space known to inmates, guaranteeing a right and a betterment of their situation. However, reality seems different: Internet needs to reclaim more prison space so as not to be rendered insignificant.
The most generic goal of imprisonment is to provide the necessary educational and rehabilitation tools to facilitate reinsertion of inmates back into society. Pursuing this end, the library can become an effective institution both as a frame and tool, to help inmates towards achieving personal development. But from documentary evidence and personal experience, we see that inmates have serious difficulties to access libraries in general and the Internet in particular. These are difficulties are based on early deficiencies related to having a low education, poor cultural backgrounds, language barriers, social prejudices, and the added difficulties posed by codes, that somehow govern the lives of individuals with a risk to be socially excluded.
Notes from experience
From 2006 to 2008, a cultural dynamization workshop took place at the Juvenile Detention Facility in Barcelona to encourage inmates to get in contact with the Internet. The idea was that they learn to disseminate their own thinking and to exchange ideas with people from the outside world through blogs and interactive diaries where anyone can express their ideas in pubic. A blog is a great tool that evades the prisoner from his stereotype as being an offender; in a blog, inmates are individuals as any other, with a will to share hobbies or thoughts in a space where they can write either individually or collectively. Also, the dynamics of the blogs and the attitude towards seeking information help inmates to become columnists, and to increase their desire to learn, opening new ways to participation and new perspectives inside and outside prison.
This workshop was designed with the goal to fulfil a basic cultural right in accordance to the principles in the UNESCO Public Library Manifesto and the IFLA Internet Manifesto. Under this framework, this activity declares in favour of removing barriers than may hinder the circulation of information, especially those that foster inequality, poverty and social and technological exclusion. It is endorsed by the universal right to freedom of expression and by the right to seek information and ideas through any media. It is fundamental by the Spanish Constitution and in compliance with current penitentiary legislation, that considers prison as a rehabilitant instrument, and not merely a punitive one. Also Catalonian penitentiary policy is benefited, since it sees Internet as a new tool for education and rehabilitation of inmates.
It has proven a rich and useful experience, and I wish it contributes to improve the purpose of libraries in prisons and enhance their role as centres capable to encourage personal development of those deprived of freedom. It has been possible due to the commitment of Lola Burgos, librarian of the Penitentiary Centre, and that of Aída García, dynamizer of Xarxa Òmnia, conductors of this project, both of whom have been key in its evolution. And also due to all those anonymous persons who help these young people to become freer today than they were, even if they are still prived from their liberty.
- City of Knowledge IGC Award 2007
- Barcelona Municipal Social Welfare Council Media Awards 2007
Lola Burgos, Aída García, Cristina Tomàs. «El blog desde la prisión: un instrumento de inclusión social». Educación y biblioteca, year 19, no. 158, 2007, p. 102-109.
Jorge Franganillo, Lola Burgos. «Blocs a la biblioteca penitenciària: un taller de dinamització cultural». Item: revista de biblioteconomia i documentació, no. 45, January-March 2007, p. 87-104.
Abstract. A work for cultural promotion, which began in 2006 in the Youth Penitentiary Center in Barcelona, encourages a group of prisoners to create and publish blogs. The objectives were to promote education among the prisoners and improve their information level, encourage them to read and write more, awaken or strengthen their technological abilities, and broathen the contact they have with the outside world.
Jorge Franganillo, Lola Burgos, Aída García, Cristina Tomàs. «Alfabetización digital en la prisión: una experiencia con jóvenes internos». Congreso Internacional de Alfabetización Tecnológica (2nd: November-December 2006: Badajoz). In: Actas del II Congreso Internacional de Alfabetización Tecnológica: superando la brecha digital. Badajoz: Fundación Ciudadanía; AUPEX; Consorcio Identic, 2008, p. 102-118. Paper.
In the media
Georgina Cisquella, Marta Rodríguez (dir.). «A un clic del mundo... y tan lejos de él» [vídeo]. Cámara Abierta 2.0. Televisión Española, TVE-2, 2 July 2008.
Raquel del Río. «Diario desde la cárcel». El Periódico, 11 November 2007, p. 36-37.
Mercè Molist. «Bloggers desde la cárcel: la Trinitat emplea el blog como instrumento de inclusión social del preso». El País, suplemento tecnológico Ciberpaís, 10 May 2007, p. 1 and 3.
Miguel Ángel Criado. «El blog de la cárcel». El Mundo, 28 April 2007.
Lola Burgos, Aída García. Interview [radio]. La Malla. COMRàdio, 25 April 2007.
Europa Press. «“Bloggers desde la prisión” recibe el premio Ciudad del Conocimiento 2007». La Vanguardia, 22 April 2007.
Jordi Aguilera, Antonio Novella. «Bloggers des de la presó» [video]. Telenotícies Migdia. Televisió de Catalunya, TV3, 18 April 2007.
Adriano Morán. «Blogs desde la prisión, parcelas de libertad detrás de las rejas». Informativos Telecinco, 24 February 2007.
Lola Burgos, Aída García, Cristina Tomàs, with inmates from the Juvenile Detention Facility in Barcelona. Interview [radio]. Siglo 21. Radio Nacional de España, Radio 3, 12 February 2007.
Daniel, Michael. Interview [radio]. El matí a quatre bandes. Radio Nacional de España, Ràdio 4, 31 January 2007.
Lola Burgos, Aída García. Interview [radio]. Trestizaje. Radio Nacional de España, Radio 3, 13 January 2007.
Olga Berrios. «Alfabetización digital en prisión: jóvenes internos se asoman a la libertad con sus blogs». CanalSolidario.org, 21 December 2006.
Chicass10, blog from Teixeiro Detention Facility (A Coruña)
El blog de la cárcel, blog from A Lama Detention Facility (Pontevedra)