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What Are They Making in Andorra’s Prison?

The small European country of Andorra has only one main prison facility, known as the Casa de la Vall. With a capacity for just over 100 inmates, the prison houses both pre-trial detainees and convicted criminals. Given its small size, the prison offers some opportunities for inmate work and manufacturing that are unique for a correctional institution.

An Overview of Andorra’s Casa de la Vall Prison

Located in Andorra’s capital, Andorra la Vella, the Casa de la Vall facility was constructed in the 1970s. It holds a mix of male and female inmates from Andorra as well as foreign nationals arrested in the country.

The prison has a staff of around 40 correctional officers and administrators. They oversee workshops, vocational programs, family visits, religious services, and other activities for the 100-120 prisoners held there.

In many ways, the Casa de la Vall operates like prisons in neighboring countries. Inmates live in cells with access to exercise yards, bathroom facilities, and common rooms. But its small size also enables some unique programs and work opportunities.

Manufacturing Operations Run by Inmates

One distinctive feature of the Casa de la Vall is that inmates operate their own manufacturing workshops to produce goods that are then sold locally in Andorra. The prison administration believes this provides valuable skills training.

The main workshop activities include:

  • Carpentry – Inmates produce wooden furniture, construction materials, and other custom wood products. The prison has a full carpentry shop with tools and machinery.
  • Textiles and sewing – Sewing machines enable prisoners to mend prison uniforms and linens. They also make bags, wallets, and other small leather goods that are sold to visitors.
  • Printing and graphic design – Inmates do small printing orders for local businesses as well as design projects using computers.
  • Metal shop – Some prisoners with welding skills fabricate metal parts, railings, doors, and structural elements to order.
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The prison sells these products to government agencies and at a gift shop on site. Proceeds go back into funding the vocational programs.

Additional Manufacturing and Services

Beyond the main workshops, inmates contribute manufacturing and services work vital to the prison’s operation:

  • Laundry – Washing, drying, and mending all bed linens, towels, and uniforms used within the facility.
  • Textile recycling – Processing old linens and fabrics into items like rugs and insulation.
  • Food services – Managing meal preparation, cooking, baking, and kitchen work.
  • Facility maintenance – Assisting with plumbing, electrical, janitorial, groundskeeping, and maintenance requests.
  • Administrative tasks – Clerical work, data entry, call center duties, and other office work.

Through this work, the prisoners gain practical skills in trades and services to help them find jobs after release. The prison also benefits by having an inexpensive and readily available labor force.

Vocational Training Programs

Alongside manufacturing operations, Andorra’s prison provides limited vocational training programs:

  • Construction – Inmates assist with renovations and repairs that provide hands-on experience in carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and other construction trades.
  • Vehicle maintenance and repair – Some prisoners are able to work in the motor pool maintaining and servicing vehicles owned by the prison and other government agencies.
  • Business administration – Courses in business management, accounting, financial skills, and computers aim to build professional office skills.
  • Cooking and hospitality – The prison’s full catering kitchen enables training in commercial food preparation, cooking, and sanitation methods.
  • Barbering – Inmates can learn to cut hair and practice barbering skills by serving clients within the prison population.
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However, vocational offerings remain basic compared to other European prisons due to Andorra’s small size and resources.

Work Opportunities for Female Inmates

Women make up around 5-10% of Andorra’s inmate population. They have access to separate manufacturing and vocational workshops focused on:

  • Sewing, knitting, and textile production
  • Hairdressing and cosmetology
  • Administrative/clerical work
  • Kitchen food preparation
  • Cleaning and maintenance

The aim is to provide marketable skills in traditionally female fields to support re-entry into the workforce. However, some advocacy groups critique the gendered nature of vocational options for female prisoners compared to males.

Compensation for Inmates’ Work

Inmates at Andorra’s Casa de la Vall receive a small stipend for their labor but not a standard wage. Compensation rates are:

  • €0.33 per hour for unskilled facility support roles
  • €0.66 per hour for skilled workshop manufacturing
  • Up to €1 per hour for specialty services like translating

Inmates may use their earnings to purchase snacks, toiletries, phone cards, and other approved items from the prison commissary. However, wages remain nominal given the limited funding.

Questions and Concerns

Some key questions arise around inmate manufacturing at Andorra’s prison:

  • Is the work truly voluntary? Inmates may feel compelled to participate.
  • Does the vocational training adequately prepare prisoners for employment after release?
  • Should inmates be paid a fair market wage rather than a token stipend?
  • Do the programs offer equal opportunities for women prisoners compared to men?

While the work programs aim to provide rehabilitation and skills training, ensuring they achieve these goals remains an ongoing process. Oversight and reforms may be needed to uphold ethics standards around inmate labor.

Conclusion

Overall, the small-scale manufacturing and vocational activities at Andorra’s Casa de la Vall prison offer some unique opportunities not seen in larger prison systems elsewhere. Inmates gain hands-on experience in trades like carpentry, sewing, and printing that aim to help them secure employment after release. However, questions remain around compensation, gender equity, and the quality of skills training. Going forward, Andorra should continue evaluating and improving its rehabilitative work programs to provide the most benefit to both inmates and society.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main goods produced by inmates?

The main goods are wooden furniture and construction materials, textiles like prison uniforms and linens, printed materials and graphic designs, and some metal fabrication of items like railings and doors. These are produced in the prison’s manufacturing workshops.

Do the vocational programs provide recognized certifications?

The vocational training does not currently result in formal certifications recognized nationwide. However, inmates gain practical experience to demonstrate skills in construction trades, auto repair, business administration, cooking, and barbering.

Who oversees the manufacturing operations and work programs?

The prison administration and correctional staff manage the vocational workshops and training programs. They aim to provide rehabilitation while also benefiting from inexpensive labor for prison operations.

What happens to the products made by prisoners?

Most items support internal prison operations, like uniforms, furniture, and food. Some goods are sold locally to government agencies or at the on-site gift shop. Proceeds fund maintenance of the workshops.

Are similar manufacturing programs common in other European prisons?

Small-scale manufacturing exists in many prisons globally. However, the breadth of programs at Andorra’s facility is unique given its very small inmate population. Most prison manufacturing focuses on manual labor rather than vocational skills.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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