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Social cooperatives: a major actor for offenders’ rehabilitation

22 January 2016 [ English ] français ]

Aiming at exchanging experiences in the implementation of alternative measures to incarceration, worker and social cooperatives and associations from the UK, Italy, Spain and France, together with CECOP and other organisations, met on 13 and 14 January in Italy for a two-day conference in the framework of the European project CoBS2 (Community Bonding for Sentenced People Supervision). On this occasion, the partners analysed the outcomes and brainstormed about future steps.

What have partners learned from the project? How shall they transfer this knowledge in their future work? According to the lead partner Consorzio TENDA, a consortium of social cooperatives based in the Italian province of Brescia, and the University of Padua, also partner in the project, 70 organisations dealing with alternative measures to incarceration were identified from the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Sweden and Italy. The type of service provided is highly diversified: they offer housing, employment, training or other services supporting future resettlement and independence of offenders.

The majority of them are social cooperatives from Italy, followed by associations and foundations. Indeed, social cooperatives are a major actor in this field in Italy, where they operate in partnership with public bodies and judicial institutions. CECOP member Federsolidarietà alone affiliates 200 cooperatives that are active in this field. “The work done by social cooperatives in this field highlights their entrepreneurial and social skills. Their capacities of adaptation make it the best suited form of organization to perform the necessary function of hinge between the offender and the society outside the prison. This happens because social cooperatives can identify individual and collective needs and detect paths aimed to make the prisoners active citizens able to contribute to their own well-being and to their community”, Lidia Copetta, Director of Consorzio Tenda says. “Social cooperatives emanate active citizenship, a sort of aggregation and inclusive attitude which is performed in particular by consortia, which have the task of organizing the individual social cooperatives into an integrated supply chain of inclusion services”, she adds.

The experience of an ex-offender who spent his alternative measure working in a work integration social cooperative was shared at the conference. Today, this person is a worker-member and covers a managerial role within the cooperative enterprise. There are many similar cases in Italy like this one.

CECOP is a partner in the project and focuses on mapping ‪worker and social cooperatives‬ involved in this field all around Europe and on facilitating transnational exchanges. In the framework of the two day conference, Elisa Terrasi, Development and Studies Officer of CECOP moderated a round table involving the social cooperative Insercoop from Spain, the worker cooperative CMS from the UK, the Italian social cooperative A&I, the French association Don Bosco and two consortia of social cooperatives both operating in the Lombardia Region.‬‬‬

The CoBS2 project started in 2014 and will terminate at the end of January 2016.

More information can be found here