INTERCULTURAL MEDIATION IN PRISON
Communication difficulties are due to the lack of knowledge regarding immigration and the role of intercultural mediation that has more connections in these situations
Marginalization generated by incarceration is felt distinctly by imprisoned persons, depending on various factors: nationality, religion, social class.
For an immigrant in general, being imprisoned leads to a situation of high disadvantage and to his social and cultural exclusion because, in a certain way, prison conditions undergo an ethnicization process.
The problem of our society that is organized around the processes of atomization, separation and inequality, manages to ethnicize social contradictions and to make the administration of social communications difficult. This happens both in urban spaces where the male or female immigrants often experience a state of loneliness, of lack of contact with the rest of society, of reflection, and in closed and total spaces, similar to those in a dungeon, where loneliness and isolation may reach unbearable levels even because of the difficulty of understanding; and this is not only a matter of language.
The status of detention of immigrants is often characterized by the following conditions:
- many immigrants do not understand the reason for which they are convicted
- the majority of the immigrants have families across borders: they do not talk to their relatives and often do not have the possibility to telephone them
- in general, immigrants do not have a reference network able to facilitate their reintegration once they are set free
- the only reintegration network outside prison is often that of micro-criminality
- the immigrants are facing a series of difficulties regarding their access to alternative measures and to the rights stipulated by the law
This condition, sometimes explained or explainable, frequently remains implicit and captive, in the impossibility of finding words to be mentioned and told by these imprisoned immigrants. All these may also lead to the development of a tense environment among immigrant prisoners and Italian prisoners, and among prisoners and the employees of the penitentiary.
The major difficulty in understanding the native culture of the immigrants, their language, cultural codes, internal dynamics of ethnic communities, but also the ambivalence and multiplicity of directive interpretation, is often the main cause of the amplification of the conditions of privation and isolation of foreign prisoners; such a situation may generate isolation and violence increase.
Consequently it is possible that the employees in prison as well (especially penitentiary police) may experiment tensions, frustrations and the lack of comfort in putting into practice the directives that foreign prisoners do not understand. The opportunity to develop favourable conditions for a factual network activity among the prison employees and employees in the private social domain may stand for a slow but significant improvement of the quality of all the prison spaces.
Cultural mediation has to confront with the obligations and the relationship networks among the actors present in prison (suffice it to think of the relationships among Italian prisoners and immigrant prisoners, among them and the penitentiary police agents). For all the prisoners, especially for the foreigners, physical proximity often corresponds to emotional and mental distance.
Methodological closeness to intercultural mediation is based on listening, acceptance, empathic understanding, admission to the legitimacy of the point of view that another person has, permanent negotiation and thus continuous achievement of social and inter-subjective communication. Relationship management, limiting, operational translation of regulations, managing the dynamics among prisoner groups, developing a system of relationships among the employees able to produce positive effects in communication, constitute the environment in which there has to be placed the role and function of cultural mediators and volunteer employees, experts, that is the migration environment.
Obviously, of fundamental importance is the collaboration with other employees of the penitentiary regarding team work, in order to take advantage of the potential created from the clash of professional ideas, thus avoiding useless overlapping and loss of energy.
(di Barbara Angelucci - Traduzione di Dinca Ionela Adriana - del 2010-03-27)
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