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THE INSIDE STORY; PRISON PROGRESS PRIEST PADDY HELPS INMATES BUILD TRUSTPRISON PROGRESS Work of Scots charity transformed jail so much killers are trusted with chisels.

Byline: PAUL O'HARE in Arba Minch, Ethiopia

PAUL O'HARE in Arba Minch, Ethiopia THE priest walked over to a man who was busy carving an ornamental coffee table.

Father Paddy Moran gently took the small chisel out of his hand, held it aloft and said: "This is real trust. Show this in a Scottish prison and the commander would drop dead."

We were standing in the Arba Minch jail in southern Ethiopia and the craftsman was one of the 2400 inmates - a third of whom are convicted killers.

Our guide was also our guard and he commanded complete respect.

Almost single-handedly Father Paddy has transformed life for incarcerated criminals in the university town.

The Spiritan missionary said: "As a fundamental principle, people are sent to prison as punishment.

After finishing in will the way. my tesfaye "They are not sent to prison for punishment. The punishment is the loss of liberty.

"So within prisons the responsibility of us, as a society, is to ensure that this represents mainstream society as far as possible.

"In mainstream society we have access to education, to healthcare, to employment and to a dignified standard of living."

African prisons are not known for being progressive and Arba Minch is operating at double its capacity.

But despite the challenges this poses, there appears to be a genuine drive to break the cycle of reoffending.

The first stop on our tour was a classroom built with a SCIAF grant.

Inside, artist Rory Prout, 30, was teaching sketching and painting as part of an Irish Embassy initiative.

One of his students, who was six months into a three-year sentence, proudly described his latest work.

Tesfaye Mikael, 24, said: "The bridge breaks when the car is moving.

"This expresses my life when something happened and I TALENTED Inmate Tesfaye develops skills in art class was sent to jail. The breaking of the bridge is my conviction.

"As the car enters the water, another car is driving across the bridge. This is the right way. After finishing in prison I will be on the right way. This expresses my dream and my hope."

Ahead of the visit, we were asked not to ask anyone why they were inside.

In the yard, I met Gabino Chalew, 33, who was jailed for 30 years in 2007. He said: "I have to be in prison for 15 years but if I work hard then they may release me after 10 years. To get that chance you have to succeed at something.

"Our institute has gradually developed and it has become more civilised than it was previously. Now you could think you are living away from your family and joining a school."

Inmates can take classes from grade one right up to grade 12, the stage before university, and pass rates are now higher than the national average.

Father Paddy helped Gabino find a passion for psychology and literature.

Gabino told me: "I want to be a world class writer and I believe I can achieve it."

Every inmate is able to earn, spend and save money.

In a bamboo shelter, 1000 men produce everything from tablecloths to fishing nets. There are also workshops devoted to metalwork and furniture, which is made to order.

Father Paddy said: "So often it is the poor who end up in prisons because they don't have access to meaningful choices.

"One way to break the cycle of criminality is skills training."

The craftsmen are in a unique position due to the tools of their trade.

Father Paddy said: "If the boys have a fight, and it happens rarely, they can't use weapons.

"It's the first thing they are told. This is the privilege they have but this involves a lot of trust.

"We are surrounded by prisoners but I can tell you we are probably in the safest place in Arba Minch."

In the cramped jail, up to 155 men share grim, windowless dormitories that are just 20ft by 50ft.

Father Paddy said: "Nobody can have an independent space.

"It's mattresses right beside each other."

As we walked through the prison's market, Father Paddy summed up the essence of what we had witnessed.

He said: "Everybody is encouraged to learn from this experience.

"To make of themselves something better. To leave as better people."

After finishing in prison I will be on the right way. This is my dream tesfaye mikael

CAPTION(S):

OUR MAN IN ETHIOPIARECORD reporter Paul meets inmates at Arba Minch jail

DEVOTED Father Paddy in the prison in Ethiopia. All pictures by Simon Murphy
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:6ETHI
Date:Mar 19, 2016
Words:760
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