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It’s About Time: The Art Of Reframing Women’s Prisons

Lack of space, of privacy, and even of basic hygiene supplies are some of the physical, visible deprivations that inmates of women’s prisons in Lebanon routinely face. But for these 1,000 women, their invisible struggles with mental anguish may be even worse. Now, a new project is seizing the opportunity to remedy both tangible and intangible shortfalls for women behind bars.

True to its name, “Promoting human rights policy and practice in Lebanese women’s prisons” aims to do just that, through a comprehensive overhaul of all applicable—and often overlapping–frameworks. “Convicts have a terrible need to speak and sometimes do not even know it,” explains former prisoner Joelle Giappesi, who served five years in Lebanese prisons, where she wrote the memoir “The Walls Do Not Make The Prison“. In this vein, the project calls for providing greater social and psychological support for inmates, more training for staff, and the updating of a regulatory law established back in 1949. It also advocates offering translators for non-Lebanese inmates, nutritional programs for pregnant and nursing women, and nurseries for children born in prison.

Co-funded by SIDA, it is organized by Diakonia, Dar Al-Amal, Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center and Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering, as part of a system-wide transition facilitated by the EU and the Lebanese authorities. To make sure its urgency is recognized, an exhibition of media pieces by young, specially trained journalists highlighting the needs of women prisoners opened on Tuesday in Beirut’s UNESCO Palace.

For more info – The exhibition’s Facebook page

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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