New life tailored for former prison inmate

Chen Huizhi
Qingpu Prison celebrates employment of a former prisoner as a tailor as the latest example of the benefits of its skills programs preparing prisoners for life on their release.
Chen Huizhi

After eight years in prison, Wang started work as a tailor for a local shop on Friday with the skills he had practiced for six years behind bars.

Wang, a pseudonym for privacy reasons, became the first former inmate of Shanghai Qingpu Prison to be employed as a tailor and the latest example of the benefits of the prison's skill programs.

Congratulations and thanks dominated at a small ceremony at Rui Qi Tailor on Maoming Road S. where Rui Jianghua, general manager of the company, presented a certificate of employment to Wang.

"The job of a tailor requires a lot of patience, which has turned a lot of people away, but good tailors will never lose their jobs," Rui said. "I hope he can take the opportunity and become a real professional."

Rui's company started to cooperate with Qingpu Prison about eight years ago to train professional tailors.

"It's our social responsibility to help those people stand on their feet, and we feel strong fulfilment when the trainees turn out to be successful," Rui said.

Wang, 37, who was jailed for causing injuries to others, said he was able to make clothing after two years of learning the basics from zero.

"At times I got frustrated and doubted if I could do it well, but the support from the prison meant a lot to me," he said.

Li Qiang, director of the prison, said they have been devoted to training inmates since the prison was established in 1994, and currently over 300 inmates are on five different programs that include handicrafts and agricultural skills.

"Our goal is to help them become responsible people in society and make an honest living on their own after getting out of prison," he said. "The programs are important to them because they give them hope."

Li presented models of sailing ships hand made by inmates to Wang and Rui at the ceremony to wish them success.

With their skills acquired during internment, some former inmates who have sat through the prison terms are keen to repay society. 

One of them, who became a farmer in another city, offered to provide vegetables free to a home for the elderly in Qingpu District on a regular base, Li said.

Li hopes more social partners will join the prison system to offer job and career opportunities to inmates.

Wang said he hopes to open his own tailor studio in the future.

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