Clemente Espinosa was incarcerated three years ago in Lurigancho, the largest prison. At the end of the month, each of the twenty inmates from Lurigancho who works at Pietà receives a percentage of the production, amounting to more than 1,500 garments per week and usually translates into a salary above the minimum, marked at 1,025 soles (about 268 dollars).
This is how the manager of the workshop, Santos Arce Ramos, the project’s oldest convict, points out to Efe, explaining with pride that he has seen “many machinists pass by who have already gone out on the street.”
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An alternative fashion brand
The architect of all this is Thomas Jacoba Frenchman born 34 years ago in the Brittany region, who has been living in Peru for more than a decade.
“I had a friend who taught French in prisons and one day she invited me to see a play she had done with her imprisoned students and I saw that they had sewing machines, others did prints, embroidery or weaving, but they had no work and I thought it could be interesting to do a joint project, an original and authentic clothing brand,” he tells Efe.
He himself is the creator of the minimalist designs of Pietà’s limited and urban-style clotheswhich propose an “alternative vision of fashion” and favor “Peruvian products” and natural, organic and recycled materials.
Its logo is four vertical bars crossed by a diagonal: “These are the numbered days in jail, where you are locked up without a notion of time, and they also represent the bars in the cell,” Jacob details.
And the name of the brand, he adds, is inspired by Michelangelo’s masterpiece, which represents the last scene before the resurrection that gives rise to rebirth.
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Ten years rescuing in prisons through fashion
The project was born ten years ago to rescue the dignity and promote the social reintegration of prison inmates from San Jorge, in the center of Lima, and from Santa Mónica, in the district of Chorrillos.
But since 2014 it has focused exclusively on Lurigancho, because it is the “largest in the country, where there is a lot of potential, a lot of people who want to work and move forward, and a lot of knowledge,” says Jacob.
This prison houses more than 10% of the 87,246 inmates in all of Peru. There are currently 8,874 inmates, almost three times more than the center’s capacity (3,200), according to Efe’s director.
Behind the doors of the access control to the facility, while some security agents puncture the bags of fruit with knives to prevent the entry of prohibited substances or objects, others review a group of at least 15 men who see for first time, from the inside, those yellow walls, sealed in barbed wire, which from today surround their new home.
The same photograph is replicated every week, in a country that registers a prison overcrowding of 112% and that, in just two decades, saw the absolute number of its prisoners triple.
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