I was thrilled to start working on the Respect Regime, looking forward to discovering this innovative prison program. A prison remains of course this difficult place of confinement, but the principle of redefining rules of interaction and respect between people during detention prepares for a more successful social reintegration. Easing security constraints improves the general climate in detention facilities while guards can engage in different and possibly more rewarding ways. The aim of the Respect Regime is to offer inmates more autonomy by leaving doors of their cells open all day long, each one entrusted with a key. The inmates go from one cell to another (never exceeding two people per cell), participate in activities in common rooms, cook or draw and chat freely ... The program also offers outings. But that is not unique to this Regime.
To take part in this program, inmates must first apply and then demonstrate irreproachable behavior by participating in common tasks such as washing clothes, cleaning passageways, participating in activities, avoiding any violence and demonstrating respect for the rules. Detainees are invited to participate in as many activities as possible while reducing the number of incidents, and to make them responsible for their lives in detention. An evaluation then takes place every 2 months. Many of the women I spoke to complained that the program offered far too few activities, that the gym was mostly inaccessible, and, most importantly, that some of the supervisors simply did not adhere to this approach ...
I found it difficult to measure the benefits of the Respect Regime, especially because the inmates are specifically selected among the calmer and most cooperative ones. This merit-based method doesn't always seem to work, and I had the impression that some of these women felt infantilized. Others even told me that they preferred the 1st floor of the facility, namely conventional incarceration. Despite certain benefits of the Respect Regime, I had the opportunity to some negative feedback. My role is not to judge nor to make any conclusive statement. I can only describe the basic intuition of an observer through the lens of a photographer and the discussions with inmates. I would simply say that this great initiative deserves further study.
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