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You have a kid that you have taken care of the whole life, and suddenly he/she ends up in prison. You have to deal with something you have not expected to experience. You can take a look back on the past, or you can run for a better future, and help others who have gone through the same ordeal.
Víťa is a well-educated and hard-working woman with no criminal past, yet her son Honza spent three years in prison for drug dealing. “Every morning after a night shift I went straight to the club, spent a whole day there, then I took a shower, went back to work and so on for three days in a row. That took a couple of years,“ says Honza. At that time he no more lived with his mother. After some time, Víťa found out that Honza was drug-addicted. He even underwent a drug rehab, but soon he was on drugs again. Unfortunately, he started dealing drugs. “When they called me that they locked him up, I felt relief,” says Víťa. To fight depression, she eventually started jogging. Less than a year later she ran her first half-marathon. Running helped her put up with the situation. She had a chance to meet people whom she could share her story with. Honza successfully fought off his drug addiction in prison, and got released before the end of his sentence. He found a decent job and together with his mother he joined the run.
Every year, more than 10,000 ex-offenders complete their prison sentence in the Czech Republic, and are released from various prisons. It is disheartening that they have to live with the stigma of having served time behind bars which can be more punishing than the prison sentence itself. Many ex-offenders find themselves literally stepping into a second prison. But this time, it would be a prison with invisible bars, the one of suspicion, mistrust and discrimination. Even the best rehabilitation regime during their incarceration is of no use, if ex-offenders find themselves rejected at home. This is the reason the Yellow Ribbon Project promotes a more accepting society, one that is willing to give ex-offenders a second chance to start a new chapter in their lives.
“I am very pleased the numbers of runners and supporters have been steadily growing. It is an important signal to our prison staff confirming the significance of connecting our demanding work in prisons with an effective after-release care. Only then can we take a step forward in fighting recidivism rates,“ says Gabriela Slováková, director of the women’s prison in Světlá nad Sázavou, and initiator of the YRR project. “We also need to signal to our clients with a criminal past that if they work hard, they will be given a second chance,“ she adds.
This year’s third edition of the YRR will be attended by almost 600 runners. This is a record number of people supporting a second chance for those ex-offenders, who completed their prison sentence, and have been seeking a return to a normal life since. Last year 374 athletes ran. The first edition was attended by only 32 people.
You, your friends, family or colleagues – everyone can run. You can join us for the O2 Prague Relay on June 13 or Volkswagen Marathon Weekend on May 6. If you are interested you can get registered here. You can also follow YRR on Facebook where you can listen to a song performed by a Kuřim Prison band called “Wsedě”. Its official version will be released after the recording in the new studio of the critically acclaimed band of the students and graduates of the Jedlička’s institute in Prague called “The Tap Tap”. See you in Prague!