Rehabilitation is on the menu at one of Ivory Coast’s most famous prisons

Our partner in Ivory Coast, Don’t Forget Them, has introduced a new training programme for prisoners coming to the end of their sentence.

Female participants  ready to start their training. Their identities are being protected. Credit: Le Réveil

A recipe for success

Chef whites on and ready to learn, prisoners at the Abidjan Detention and Correction Center (MACA) in Ivory Coast are taking part in a six-month cooking course ‘Yedi Djouman’, which means ‘We Work’ in the local language, Baoulé.

Launched by our partner in August 2021, the students were excited to finally start in January 2022 after delays due to the global pandemic.

At the end of the six months, participants will receive a diploma in baking and cookery and be offered an internship or have the chance to set up their own business in cooking or pastry.

The course is open to 50 people, both men and women, who have less than 12 months left on their sentence. They will gain new skills learning from a chef from a nearby hotel.

Participants in the course will learn to cook both European and African dishes as well as being taught basics in how to make pastry.

As well as being a positive for prisoners and their rehabilitation, it’s also addressing a fundamental problem of food quality and provision in the prison.

Prisoners at MACA currently need to pay for their food. This creates a divide between those who have support from their families and those who don’t. The food made by prisoners during their course will help to address this.

Our partner ‘Don’t Forget Them’ has worked closely with the prison team to provide free meals to those who can’t afford it. Family members will also be able to order food from the newly established restaurant.

The Deputy Director of Reintegration and Social Affairs, Bamba Tiapé described the initiative as “a project of the utmost importance.”

“The main problem for prisoners is the quality of the food. Now parents can directly order food from the prison rather than relying on external food being brought into the prison, which causes issues with bans and things being illegally smuggled into the prison. To avoid searches and the humiliation this can cause, this project is welcome.”

“Training is key to reintegration”

Prisons in Ivory Coast are overcrowded. MACA has a population of 7,400 prisoners despite it being designed to accommodate 1,500 inmates. The exploding prison population leaves people asking whether rehabilitation for prisoners is possible. Our partner Don’t Forget Them say helping give prisoners skills to reintegrate into society is vital.

Addressing the question of rehabilitation, Prison Reintegration Director, Tiapé added that training “is the key to reintegration. It’s helping people get a new start in life.”

David Saï Jean Bâtisse at the launch of the programme in August 2021. Credit: Connection Ivoirienne

President of Don’t Forget Them, David Saï Jean Bâtisse said: “Prison must be the place to teach offenders values to help them facilitate their socio-professional reintegration and make them a sociable individual. A plausible solution to this is professional training completed during their prison sentence.”

He added that the organisation will support prisoners on release enabling them to use their new skills in roles in the community. His one request to students, take it seriously, be diligent as “it will determine your future.”

This piece is based on articles originally published in Le Réveil and Connection Ivoirienne.

Words: Rebecca Corbett