Twenty-two women prisoners at a Beijing prison were recently given a special gift: tailoring training courses which will help them earn their living when they complete their prison terms.
The course was funded by the People's Procuratorate of the Shijingshan District in western Beijing and was designed to help prisoners turn over a new leaf when they leave prison.
In the past, extra care for prisoners might mean a small amount of cash, daily necessities such as a towel or soap, and a lecture urging them to mend their ways and move back into normal society as soon as possible.
"What the prisoners need most is not money or lectures, but a way to make a living," said Wang Weifu, an official from the Beijing Municipal Prison Administration.
Several prisons in Beijing have put training at the top of their agenda. Prisoners are trained to repair household electric appliances and motor vehicles, operate computers and landscape parks or gardens.
"Vocational training is an effective way to help prisoners acquire specific skills to help them find work after their release," said Wang.
Last year, 6,770 prisoners in Beijing completed vocational training courses of various kinds. The prisons have received donations from all walks of life to facilitate their training program. Local government departments have donated computers, printers, cameras, color TV sets and 66,000 yuan (US$8,000) in cash over the last two years.
With the help of education authorities, Beijing's prisons have also provided primary and secondary education to poorly educated prisoners, and encouraged secondary-school graduates to pursue higher learning through self-education.
Statistics show that 11,637 prisoners in Beijing have taken part in the city's biannual self-taught examination for higher learning since 1986; 4,345 have passed at least one test and 51 have graduated after completing all the required courses.
Zhao Gang, who had received death penalty with a two-year reprieve for voluntary manslaughter, was the first in China to earn a bachelor's degree in jail.
In addition to training programs, the prisons also work with local government departments to help released prisoners solve the problems they face, such as unemployment, lack of housing, and high medical bills.
Li Xin was homeless after years in jail when officials began helping him boost his confidence. With the skills he had acquired in prison, Li soon found a job.
( eastday.com.cn August 21, 2002)