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Saudi prison provides entertainment, rehabilitation for prisoners

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A Saudi prison is providing prisoners with entertainment programs aimed at rehabilitating them into society. In partnership with the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), Jeddah’s Briman Prison is providing prisoners with a range of theater, music and other rehabilitation programs.

The rehabilitation programs give prisoners a chance to take part in cultural activities and performances which their families were allowed to attend. One prisoner told Al Arabiya KSA, “I feel like it’s a dream … I wasn’t expecting to be able to be part of an entertainment event which my family can come and share with me … This brought me happiness and confidence.”

The latest programs are part of the Saudi Ministry of Interior’s long-term commitment to rehabilitation. The ministry website states: “The General Directorate of Prisons is fully aware of the important role it has in the area of rehabilitation and care that inmates require. There is no doubt that the programs of training, rehabilitation and employment of prisoners play a key role in the success of this reform policy.”

The programs in Briman were organized in partnership with the GEA, one of the core elements of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan. In January, the GEA’s chair Turki Al al-Sheikh, announced 2019 as the "year of entertainment," featuring new live shows and performances in the Kingdom.

One prisoner told Al Arabiya that until they were given the opportunity to take part in the entertainment program, they had felt like they were missing out on the activities happening outside.

According to data from the Directorate of Prisons, in 2015 a total of 558 prisoners in the Jeddah authority attended a range of workshops in prisons, including social theater, educational and social lectures, and poetry workshops.

Briman Prison in Jeddah, Mecca Province, was reported to hold 7,000 prisoners in 2015. The same year, 2,500 inmates were transported from Briman to the newly built Dhahban Prison and Briman's reformatory wing was scheduled for demolition.

In 2016, the Saudi authorities opened a family wing at the prison, with 26 housing units where prisoners could meet with their families.

The Interior Ministry presents a number of rehabilitation activities such as the thiqah (confidence) program, which is tailored for prisoners whose prison term is about to end, preparing them to go back to their normal lives.

The programs are designed so that rehabilitation continues after prisoners are released.

“There is a special team which helps to guide prisoners in life after they leave the prison. We add them to WhatsApp groups, we look out for them, and have activities for prisoners after they’ve left, we take them on beach activities – we continue to help them,” explained one of the authorities at Briman Prison.

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