Luciana Delle Donne talks about her initiative: “Made in Jail.”
A new life for fabrics and textiles, but also a second chance for people whose lives have gone wrong and are serving a prison sentence. This, in a nutshell, is the idea that led Luciana Delle Donne to give up her post as a top manager in a bank and to devote herself to social issues. In 2007 she decided to create the brand “Made in Jail – values with conviction”: she opened a tailor’s workshop in a prison in the Italian region of Puglia and took on the challenge of giving a second chance to people for whom every door is closed after they have made a mistake, a fact which was serious enough for them to be convicted, but surely not to the point of losing their dignity; such is the opinion of Luciana, at any rate. After a difficult start, she has managed to take on more than 100 women inmates over the years, some of whom are in maximum security prisons.
According to Luciana, the hardest part was to make it clear to the prisoners themselves that were able to work on a project. Many had given up hope in life and lost faith in everything that formed their past. Earning a salary and contributing to household expenses or being able to pay for a birthday gift for their child, is a way to redeem themselves and help them to see that their time in prison can be more about rehabilitation than punishment.
The project is as much about eliminating waste and promoting ecology as it is about social issues. “Made in Jail” brand products are created using scrap materials recovered from Italian companies. Items that would just become landfill are transformed, in the hands of Luciana and her women, into new fashion objects, and in the process they acquires a second life that makes waste an integral part of each accessory: everything from a bag that turns into a scarf depending on how you use it, to the key ring that hides a mini bag to a set of bracelets.
But the most important thing for the inmates is to learn a skill that they can use on the outside, after their release; a skill that will help them reintegrate into society and the world of work. Luciana Delle Donne and “Made in Jail” offer a message of hope, one that allows women prisoners to be able to resume a life of dignity and to contribute, through their work, to a project that serves as a model for others.