f) Testimony of Michael Sean O'Loingsigh, Coordinator of the Pastoral and Educational Team In the time he worked at the Center, the witness was in charge of coordinating the ministry and education team. He began working at the Center in late 1993 with a ministry in which he did interviews with inmates, their families and their attorneys.
In 1994 he started the literacy school, Center No. 118, which had one teacher from the Ministry of Justice and Labor. He ended that project in 1999, by which time the school offered a complete elementary education, from first through sixth grade. There were two libraries for the inmates. Instruction was provided on the judicial process, and every inmate was given the name of his attorney, the prosecutor and the judge. There were trades and workshops were conducted. Courses were given on drug addiction and AIDS. In 1998 he was part of a multi-professional team at the Ministry of Education and Culture that worked on developing a support plan.
The Mini-Business Project got underway in 1998, with the idea of providing jobs to the inmates. They were taught new techniques of saving their profits, and learned teamwork. The goal was to prepare them for re-entry into society, build their self-esteem and serve as an incentive to create a job for themselves.
By late 1998, 60% of the 338 inmates at the Center were in the school, 12% were developing skills, and 28% were involved in other activities like cooking and cleaning.
In addition to coordinating the inmates’ schooling, starting in 1995 the witness also began coordinating training workshops for volunteers and staff of the Center. Starting in 1998, some inmates began to participate in those workshops. The witness knows many former inmates who have managed to become part of mainstream society once again and are currently engaged in various types of activities.
The Center took a major step forward when each inmate had an opportunity to move further in his studies and to be trained. Also, more training was provided for the Center’s staff and volunteers, so that they would have a better understanding of the complexities of the inmate rehabilitation process.
Therefore, from 1993 to 2000, there was a notable change on the educational front, in the inmates’ behavior and in the treatment they received. However, the main problem persisted, which was society’s absolute rejection.
The witness is still working with juvenile offenders at Itauguá. He also helps families of inmates and former inmates at the office of pastoral services for juvenile offenders at Asunción’s Metropolitan Seminary.