Female Convicts Make High-End, Italian Fashion Goods

Convicts throughout the world have a famously tough time finding work after leaving prison. Employers tend to discriminate against ex-cons, and the criminal justice system rarely prepares prisoners adequately for re-entry into the workplace. But the Italian government is leading the way, at least in this regard. It's created the Sigillo fashion brand, and all of the products under that label will be created by female prisoners and sold in high-end fashion stores.

In the Rebibbia prison in Rome, female convicts are being trained in the art of handbag-making. Any inmate who chooses to participate in the program will earn a salary of 600 euros per month (or roughly $800), according to AFP. No less an authority than Fendi heiress Silvia Venturini Fendi herself supports the project. The handbags will retail for up to 40 euros (or $53), and will be available in fashion stores throughout Italy "within months," reports Business Standard.

Ten inmates have already agreed to participate in the program. Another 40 from across Italy are expected to join them. Officials hope that the training will lead to employment for them after prison. The Italian justice ministry has invested 400,000 euros for the program. Charities have kicked in an additional 400,000.

The program at Rebibbia is instilling an entrepreneurial spirit in its inmate participants, according to news reports. "When I get out of here, I would like to open a shop," said a 33-year-old who was born in the Ukraine, and identified by AFP only as Natalya. She also said that she and her fellow convicts find professional fulfillment from the program. "When we create things and they are sold, are appreciated, then we enjoy our work."

More: How Convicts Get Jobs Without Lying

According to Nanda Roscioli, a former Italian justice ministry employee, this professional training of inmates is "unique" in Italy. As to why the job training is only open to women, she said the "subordinate" minority in Italian prisons face conditions that are "harsher, more barbaric" then what men face. "The aim of the project is to give female detainees the tools to be in the marketplace once they are released."

Of course, Italy's ex-cons are hardly alone in their struggle to find employment. A study in New York City found that job applicants with a criminal conviction are nearly 50 percent less likely to be called for an interview or receive a job offer. As a result, many former convicts turn to nonprofit organizations, such as the Philadelphia-based Baker Industries, which trains ex-cons for free. The organization also helps its members find housing and clothing.

The Rebibbia participants, for their part, are optimistic about their employment future. "With this job I'm sure everything will be okay with me. I've learned a lot here," Kalu Uwaezuoke Chinedum Ike, a 40-year old Nigerian facing drug trafficking charges who's currently imprisoned at Rebbibia, told AFP. "When I get out I want to have a more normal, a calmer life."

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Miranda Smith

This is legalized slave labor, prisoners are paid less than minimum wage.

June 14 2013 at 11:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Maybe while they are in prison we should train both men and women to do jobs that are sent overseas and bring back those industries to the USA. That way hopefully when they got out they could still work for the company or at least have been trained in something and make their time in jail worth something. They are plenty of people in prison to train.

June 14 2013 at 11:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Patsy's comment
Miranda Smith

And then what.... people in prisons will have the jobs. Perfect little slave colonies.

June 14 2013 at 11:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dottie and Tony

they need to work for the govt that are providing a roof over their heads, feeding them 3 meals a day ... may not be the best food, but your not starving.... and they should be doing something to keep busy instead of sitting and not doing anything... earn your keep.... my taxes are paying for that facility to operate and all who run it.... so help out and give back... if you earn a few pennies along the way, then you an afford your own canteen products...

June 14 2013 at 11:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When we were first married, we bought his and hers rocking chairs from a department store in Illinois that were made in one of the prisons. They were the most comfortable chairs ever! And the \"HERS\" was great for a nursing mother. Now 40 yrs later I really miss those chairs!

June 14 2013 at 10:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The "us" Gov't should try this, instead of training future repeat offenders.

June 14 2013 at 9:48 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Harry Hurt

Eight-hundred a month for working in prison? What a deal! Room and board paid for, three meals a day, free health care, and it\'s all on the taxpayer. If I were in that position, I would save the money to go into business for myself when I get released. One may hope that the system doesn\'t spoil it all by a release for good behavior before the skill is learned. Training wild mustangs? If they are smart, they will train the horses to run fast, then race them. Prisoners are quite often experienced at running, so they must make good teachers.

June 14 2013 at 9:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Harry Hurt's comment
John Rubano

You must not make 800 a month, jealous are we... The inmate didn't make that choice of pay so why go after the inmate with your wise comments, at least they're willing to learn and work.

June 14 2013 at 11:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In US Federal prisons, the women make 24 cents per hour, from an outside contractor, to make Mother Boards for our military. That's IF they can get that work. Otherwise, they make 12 cents per hour to do construction, brick laying, plumbing, A/C, etc. No outside contractors are allowed inside the prison unless machinery is needed that the prison doesn't own. e.g. huge cement trucks. Oh! They also make 12 cents per hour to feed 1400 woman, 3x a day.

June 14 2013 at 9:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

How many blacks would be in a convicted child molester prison? 1% .....I know there are more blacks in prison, but what kind of crimes? I don't care about criminals who got arrested for seeling drugs, DUI, stealing, vandalism----I'm concerned about the real criminals----the ones who molest kids, rape women, murder men, women and children----the real criminals and then look at how many blacks are behind those crimes. Convict those SERIOUS offences and determine the race after that.

June 14 2013 at 8:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to liondog96's comment
Miranda Smith

You think blacks don't molest children? BS, more likely they don't get put in prison for it because its hushed up. Can't put the guy in jail if he's paying the bills... doesn't matter if he rapes your daughter. I've seen it time and time again. By the time the child is able to speak for themselves the statue of limitations is up.

June 14 2013 at 11:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder if the percentage of blacks in prison in Italy is as high as here in the US

June 14 2013 at 6:20 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to fox12ga's comment


June 14 2013 at 10:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to flire's comment
Miranda Smith

Raciest? lol.... if you are going to use a word then you should spell it correctly. You just called that comment "sexy" instead of "bigoted"

June 14 2013 at 11:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

having worked in the prisons here in ohio i see this as both good and bad. i think it is good we train these people to have jobs when released. alot of people end up back in jail again because they cant find work and then in return can not live and pay bills and try to settle into a life. on the other side of this, i do not think anyone in prisons should profit off their crimes and be allowed to have \"luxeries\" while being punished. kinda defeats the purpose. maybe that money should be put into an account they can use when released or something. what i have issues with is there are some inmates who will enver change and will always think they are the victem and play that and use the system yes, but there is others who just want to do their time, pay back there debt and want a life. those are the ones we need to target and help. give them job training and education in adjusting to the world when they are released. once your debt is paid i think it is wrong to hold their time against them for jobs and housing. but i also think you can make a mistake once, after your one well guess you dont learn and then i am done helping them.

June 14 2013 at 5:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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