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LIBERIA: Salesian missionaries support youth in prison

Work also facilitates reintegration back into the community


(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries have been working to support inmates at Monrovia Central Prison for Juveniles in Liberia. The prison fellowship program takes place two mornings a week and includes group counseling and psychosocial support. Salesians also provide clothing, washing materials, medical help, spiritual support and legal assistance. Every day, Salesians bring the juvenile and sick inmates a warm meal and a drink.

From the very first contact with an inmate during their admission to the prison, Salesians work to reduce fear and build trust. The focus is on the youth’s situation and future planning. If trust is established early, youth are more likely to positively engage in the activities that help with rehabilitation and long-term planning for the future.

Salesians also provide education. School lessons takes place Monday to Friday between 12-2 p.m. In addition to English and mathematics, life-relevant topics are addressed with a focus on anti-aggression training. After the last session, games are organized for the youth.

The prison has a small house where sick inmates are taken to receive medical care. Medical staff provides exams and can administer medication. This is done in consultation with the prison administration so that the medication is not resold. Those who are seriously ill are transported to the Catholic Hospital in Monrovia.

Salesians also support youth after they are released. Salesians facilitate access to continued education and vocational training to help with reintegration back into the community. From October to December 2022, support was provided to 11 school students and three vocational trainees.

During this same time period, Salesians also renovated the kitchen at Don Bosco Matadi to increase the food supply for the inmates. In order to keep the costs for feeding the young and sick inmates as low as possible, the food was prepared by employees from Don Bosco Matadi. This also made it possible to offer the food to as many inmates as possible.

“Providing services like this for young people in prisons gives them a fighting chance at a better life once they are released,” said Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Youth need access to counseling to process why they are there and then activities like skills training so that when they are released, they can find legitimate work. The goal is to make sure they are contributing members of their communities and do not return to prison.”

An estimated 64 percent of Liberians live below the poverty line and 1.3 million live in extreme poverty, out of a population of 4.6 million, according to the World Food Programme. Food security is also affecting 41 percent of the population and making chronic malnutrition high.

Whether working to rehabilitate former child soldiers or assist young women in overcoming barriers to education, Salesian programs in Liberia are providing opportunities for youth to live up to their potential through both academic and social programs.



Photo courtesy of Don Bosco Child Protection & Youth Empowerment Projects

Don Bosco Child Protection & Youth Empowerment Projects Newsletter Oct.-Dec. 2022

Salesian Missions – Liberia

World Bank – Liberia

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