She left the world of finance, her job as bank-manager, the security that comes with 22 years of service and prestige which contributed to create the first model of a virtual bank. Then she decided to devote her time to female-detainees. This, is the story of Luciana, who at a certain point of her life, thought of returning home, to Lecce, to devote more time to herself and to her family; however, the time had come to pay back the good that she had received during her lifetime from others. And she invented something that was fantastic: exploiting material that enterprses had discarded to create work for others – on regular contract –to female-detainees. In other words, using up the scrap and transforming i tinto something which inapropriately is defined by society as waste. A small wonder, which also produces work. A slap in the face to the superficialità of those who pronounce judgements and who margina lise people in society.
“From technological innovation – she tells– I thought of coming up with social innovation. I have have always been concerned for “others”. Rather a maternal approach, if we want to put it that way, of a missing mother, but I’ve always taken care of others. First, I had patented a shirt-collar, starting a training-session of inmates in prison …But they have all been pardoned and I found myself with a few on my hands. The tailoring is too complicated for that kind of sewing.Hence Istarted off again with more simple objects, with bags made from retrive material, rectangles”. The girls that cooperate with Luciana Delle Donne on the assignment Made in prison work on a regular contract, which has its seat though in prison. When they have completed their sentence in prison and leave finding their freedom again, they have acquired a professional baggage to take with them.
But how do you find the essential material needed in the manufacturing of bags and gadgets? “We look fori t in the textile-factories, we ask for left-overs, scraps and smaples. We rely on donations, rarely buy; in addition to warehouse stock which need to be emptied. Fortunately enough, there is quite a lot available, also because knowing well that i twill be put to good use, we always find it. The idea that certain fabrics don’t end up wasted but are recycled, continue to live, the thought that they have a second chance is very profound, esepcially if you had to correlate this meaning to those who carry out this transformation. Furthermore – she adds smiling – at the end we get beautiful “vintage” fabrics”.
Currently, there are agreements in operation with the prisons of Lecce and Trani. Tailor-workshops have been set up there with sewing-machines, some have been purchased by us others by the Department of the Penitenciary Police. But we cooperate with the prisons of Genoa, Vigevano, Santa Maria Capua Vetere.
“The female detainees – Luciana further explains – accepted the challenge, this economic and professional opportunity. There has been no particular difficulty.They receive a basic wage and prized extra bonuses if they put more effort into their work, or promoted with seniority job-positions; meritocracy works well in here, just another small miracle”.
The work-offer depends on the type of crime the person has been convicted of: “We personally donot know which crime, the worker is selceted by the management. We are not interested in acting as judges, we just want t ogive a helping hand”. A praiseworthy intent, but that does not go without any risks: the detainees work in fact with 20 centimetre long scissors… “The penitentiary police are always on guard. Some say that nothing has ever occurred because there would be no reason to waste such an opportunity… Well, whoever speaks in this way obviously is unaware of the reality within the prison-walls; the ‘meaning’ of the word ‘jail’ is profound, and they could do anything to harm people or to be admitted into hospital. Fortunately enough for us, this has never occurred”.
So here are the samples on sale: accessories, bags, personlised products. They are also on sale in some ‘fastbook’ bookshops and in other independent branches throughout the country, and in outlets Italy, in the Conad (“We have produced 400.000 bracelets for them”, she tells). But not all are roses. “It’s not easy to compete on the market, especially with the intrusion of Chinese products. We have to avoid the double-stitching for example in roder to save time and prevent a rise in price. And anyway, we always need to count on the availability of the personnel on guard needed to keep order and control; when it’s not available, so does production stop too”. The first invoice came in 2008, from the region of Puglia. Depending on the rodersi we receive, the number of employees may vary from 15 to 50. It is a great commitment which is difficult to pursue: “Setting up a social enterprise – bitterly concludes Luciana – is almost an oxymoron. Or you end up doing one thing or you do another”. Luckily, there are those who don’t give in.
Translation provided by Marina Stronati