Over the last seven and a half years, the Cyprus Prisons Department has introduced daily sport activities in prisoners’ lives, along with the implementation of the Good Lives Model, a rehabilitation theory that focuses on creating meaningful life plans to prevent future offences. The overall goal of the project is to reduce recidivism, which is the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend. Since the restructuring of the Cyprus prison management, recidivism rates have dropped from more than 50% to less than 15%.
According to Deputy Director Athena Demetriou
Cyprus Prisons promotes respect for diversity, unites people, changes mindsets, culture and perceptions of prisoners while building healthy attitudes and correcting behaviours.
“All People Are Equal.”
The prison population of Cyprus is incredibly mixed - it includes prisoners from 68 different countries alongside locals, women and men, young and elderly. This mix runs contrary to the oft-held stereotypes and biases associated with people who spend time in prison. Demetriou emphasised that there is more to the situation than what may initially meet the eye.
Being in prison should be considered by all an opportunity to learn and become a better human being.
Inclusivity and respect for diversity are key values for the Cyprus Prisons project. The cultivation of character and morals through participation in cooperative activities and sport allows people in closed environments, like prison, to learn to live by the rules of a free society.
Sport promotes mutual respect, healthy and responsible competition and discipline for following rules. To bring daily sporting activities in to the lives of prisoners, the Cyprus Prisons Department has
- created 8 gyms, sport courts in open areas and 2 prison staff gyms filled with modern equipment
- brought in sport teachers from the Cyprus Sports Organisation regularly to develop schedules for indoor exercise and provide guidance and supervision
- enabled inmates to participate in sport activities like football, basketball, badminton, table tennis, yoga, body combat, personal training and more
Through sport, inmates become more confident, less violent and more open to criticism. Overall, there is a higher commitment among inmates to live by the values of self-improvement and self-development. By being accountable and reliable team players, prisoners get help on their path toward a smoother reintegration into society as responsible and moral citizens.
Fair play on and off the field
Other prisons are looking to follow Cyprus Prison’s paradigm and incorporate sport and education into the daily lives of inmates, for the benefit of inclusivity and inmates’ rehabilitation.