On a relaxing Italian vacation, the last thing you’d expect to discover is that the hotel staff cooking, cleaning, and waiting on your every need is actually comprised of convicted felons serving time. But on Pianosa island, that happens to be the case.
The island in the Tuscan Archipelago is home to a local cooperative known as San Giacoma. The cooperative works in conjunction with a prison on Elba island and gives inmates contracts to be waiters, gift shop salesmen, cleaners, barmen, and cooks in its 12-room hotel.
Currently, five prisoners are staffed in the hotel and its restaurant. They aren’t allowed to leave the island, and they are confined to special rooms at night.
Visitors can rest-assured knowing that only prisoners who’ve served the majority of their sentences and shown exemplary behaviour can partake in the programme. And those chosen are making every effort to prove that they have changed their ways and can handle the responsibilities that come with this kind of employment.
The initiative has been a great success, and the co-op’s deputy head Brunello De Batte says that it “allows [prisoners] to gradually re-integrate into society with a lot less trauma then if they were to leave prison from one day to the next.” Many inmates have successfully found work after participation, and there are plans to open a professional training centre for prisoners on the island.
Overall, the program is a win-win situation in that patrons get to enjoy a restful and scenic vacation while helping prisoners get a new sense of self-worth and re-adjust to life beyond bars.