Thursday, 21 November 2019

Offenders in the Vines

This year there was a small trial to allow eight men convicted and jailed for criminal offences to take day release as a work party in a vineyard in Rochecorbon (Vouvray AOC). Hand picked by the prison service, the probation service and judges from Tours courthouse, the men, aged between 20 and 40 were placed under the supervision of a prison warder. The project was the first of its kind in Indre et Loire and came about because our member of parliament, Sophie Auconie, approached a local winemaker, who agreed immediately to be involved.

 A parcel of chenin blanc grapes at Rochecorbon in the Vouvray AOC 
(not the winery involved in the offenders project).
Chenin blanc vines, Rochecorbon, Vouvray AOC.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

None of the men had ever done grape picking before, but they seemed delighted to be able to put it on their CV, and to be outdoors, in the countryside, and to feel free. They apparently dealt with pouring rain and lots of cuts and sore muscles with fortitude, working alongside more experienced regular seasonal workers. The warder who kept an eye on them was a volunteer for the project, transferring them in a mini bus every day and giving them a hand in the vineyard. After a couple of weeks they were completely up to speed with their more experienced colleagues and everyone felt they had new skills and confidence that would help them re-enter society on release. The judges involved in the project felt that it had proved to be simple and effective.

The winemaker too was happy with the result and ready to repeat it next year. The probation service is now looking at similar projects in market gardens and forestry, as well as municipalities. One of the prisoners has even left his CV with the winery, hoping to get a pruning job with them when he is released in the winter.

Chenin blanc grapes in a parcel at Rochecorbon (not the winery involved in the project).
Chenin blanc grapes, Rochecorbon, Vouvray AOC.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

A similar project was trialled in Burgundy last year, and then this year it was tried in Indre et Loire, Loir et Cher and three other départements (counties). The men were paid the minimum wage. Only one man left the project, and he was replaced.


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Le Pré de la Forge said...

As an ex-probation service officer charged with setting up such projects.... setting something like this up would have had me jeered from all directions!!
All projects had to be costed to the Nth degree [Thank you Mr "Something of the night" Howard] and a proven benefit to the "community" and retribution of the "offender" be shown....
I had to write a detailed account that was sent off to the Home Office for approval... how the hell can you put a value on the psycological well-being of a little old lady who needs regular help in her garden and retribution aspect to the offender acting as her hands.... in order to be able to enjoy it. The cost of replacing a gardener aspect was simple... ring arounds for quotes did that for projects... then I had to conjour a figure for well-being!!
Under Douglas Hurd, things were very straight forward... if you could show a perceived benefit, that was fine. With a caseload of 120, I didn't have the time to do what How-weird required... so the benefit to the the "community" and the "client" [offender] began to be in projects like wall cleaning... litter picking.... etc. Sad!!

Unknown said...

During a road trip south to California when I was young I nearly drove off the road when I saw an actual chain gang. A group of men working in a field chained together, wearing striped prison garb and supervised by a man on a horse carrying a rifle. It wasn't a movie!

Susan said...

I know one of the problems with these community service projects is the damage done to tools by offenders who don't respect them. The tools are usually provided by private contractors or even civic minded individuals, who never get recompensed, and get fed up with the hassle even if they are prepared for the cost.

Susan said...

Wow! I would have reacted the same way as you!

Le Pré de la Forge said...

Damage to tools!!!! DAMAGE TO TOOLS!!!
One project that was set up for us by a magistrate...
where we were supplying the bodies and rakes...
unbeknown to me, involved the use of a brush & weed mincer.
What wasn't taken into account, therefore, was the item hired by the benefactor. It could cope with 1.5" branches... at the end of the day, we had eight 2ft handled rakes.... out of twelve!!

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