Designing and construction of a new unit in the territory of Olaine Prison: The “Good Changes" Lab” is developing

Since 2014, the mission of the Latvian Prisons’ System is to execute the liberty deprivation punishment, so helping to the offenders to become socialized citizens. The mission is brave and ambitious. Offenders are isolated from the society, but the prisons’ staff must teach them how to live in it. When working with the convicted persons, the tested and effective methods must be applied and prisons appropriate for the use of these methods must be set up.

Although within prison’s walls it is possible to speak about offender’s goodwill to live in the society just hypothetically, the potential of the prisons is high enough to prepare a customer for facing the main test – the liberty. Guided by this idea, imprisoned people addicted to substances, one of the most sensitive target groups, is chosen for application of the new approach and intensive resocialization.

Name of the Change Lab is a project meant for resocialization of the convicted persons being addicted to the substances - "Development of new unit in Olaine prison, including construction and staff training”, which is co-financed by the Norway government. Using consultations of experienced foreign experts, resocialization programs are developed, as well as construction of a new unit in Olaine prison is started.

The Unit or resocialization Centre for the addicted imprisoners, where from the next spring with 200 customers in two shifts will work 70 employees, will consist of the buildings, arranged in a shape of the letter “H”. Therefore, it is symbolic that entire preparation for the new mission is characterised by five “H”s - "hermetic", "hygiene", "harmony", "humanism", and "holism".

Upon starting resocialization of the addicted people, it is necessary to close all the pathways leading to the substances creating addiction. Windows of the buildings will not be possible to open, flow of fresh air will be provided by a ventilation system. It is important to perform resocialization of the substances’ users in the environment encouraging a healthy lifestyle. It will be forbidden to smoke in the Unit’s premises, for physical activities a gym will be constructed and a room for exercise machines will be equipped.

The new Centre will consist of eight small subunits, allowing to keep a separate psychological microclimate in any of them. The harmony will be followed also in the design of the premises, where the place for both work and rest is foreseen. Life in the Centre will be formed by the united programme of resocialization activities, its components will be both individual and group activities, customers’ day routine, gym activities, even common meals and cleaning of premises.

The Centre will illustrate that the liberty deprivation punishment is not a revenge but a way how the State teach to the offenders the skills of living independently, without committing the crimes.

Design and construction of the new unit is being performed by Construction Company RE&RE. Dainis Učelnieks, the responsible manager of the construction works of this project says: “Currently we have started the construction of “zero cycle”. In the course of the project will be constructed 3 new buildings and a gym, which in the territory will be located in the shape of letter “H”; it is planned to construct also 4 walking areas. The building of the new Unit will have two floors, the total coverage is 3792.4 m2. This is a great challenge for us, as set-up of the construction site and organization of the construction works must be done in closed, restricted prisons’ territory, by following all the respective security requirements.”