The hotel institute teaches you the 3 pillars of the Ho.Re.Ca. sector: cooking, serving and welcoming. Teaching this to inmates is an important part of giving them a second chance on their release from prison. Yesterday at Palazzo Isimbardi, the Metropolitan City of Milan organised the second event of the 'Girasoli' or 'Girasoli d'inverno' (Sunflowers in winter) review, with the aim of showing how in prison it is possible to learn a profession that can offer a chance of redemption once out.

Why sunflowers in winter? "Sunflowers resist the cold, follow the sun, which represents art and light in its beauty, and rise again. So do the inmates thanks to the workshops in prison'.

In my opinion, to speak of 'redeeming oneself' in prison is reductive and can only apply to those who do not commit serious physical or psychological harm to another person because in that case one must first identify the psychiatric pathology behind that behaviour, treat it or chronicise it, and only then can one speak of redemption and finally of a path to reintegration.

A second chance in the Ho.Re.Ca. sector.


Sunflowers in Winter was a conference moderated by journalist Fulvio Marcello Zendrini which featured as guests Diana De Marchi, Councillor in charge of Social Policies of the Metropolitan City of Milan, who brought the institutional greeting, leaving room for the speeches of Giovanna Di Rosa, President of the Supervisory Court, Beatrice Uguccioni, Councillor of the Municipality of Milan; Giorgio LeggieriBollate Prison Director; Ettore PrandiniPresident Coldiretti; Stefano Conti, Director of Human Resources and Organisation Trenitalia; Davide Oldani, Chef restaurant D'O and teacher at Istituto Olmo Cornaredo; Fr Pierluigi Plata, a priest with a passion for cooking;  Silvia Polleri, President and manager of the Coop. Soc. ONLUS abc la sapienza in tavola and director of the InGalera Restaurant at Bollate Prison; Annaletizia La Fortuna, teacher of a hotel class of inmates at the Bollate Prison;  Mirco Mastrorosa, Founder Yolk Media and Tommaso Zoboli, Ristorante Patrizia in Modena.

Some of the speeches were brilliant, others very interesting, others a bit exaggerated and finally - as in every conference inevitably happens - someone was not prepared and improvised something a bit rambling. However, on the whole it was a conference that I was pleased to attend because it animated in me a desire to reflect on a topic that is both important and extremely difficult.

The Sunflowers Project

The Girasoli project consists of 4 conferences dedicated to inmates that aim to make them reflect on prison life in the Milan metropolitan area and on giving them a second chance through activities aimed at inclusion. Each conference features a different expressive reality (painting, cooking, theatre and music), each assigned to one of the four seasons (autumn, winter, spring and summer) as these represent four different ways of giving hope to the sunflowersi.e. prisoners understood as people who are offered a chance for social recovery through art. Each event features a prison in the Milan metropolitan area and in particular: the San Vittore, Opera and Bollate prisons and the Beccaria Juvenile Penal Institute. In each of these facilities, training projects have been set up to combine life inside and outside prison. Exemplary the Bollate prison restaurant 'InGalera' where the inmates work with such professionalism that it has earned them a mention in the Michelin Guide.

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Is a second chance for prisoners fair? My reflection.

I listened carefully to yesterday's speeches and, word after word, I could not help but ask myself questions. While talking about inclusion is crucial, on the other hand - in my opinion - it is right to remember that if one is in prison it is because one has committed a crime. Mind you, there are a multiplicity of different offences, some are more despicable than others, some are committed out of desperation rather than by the person... and that is why it is difficult to answer unequivocally when talking about giving a second chance. Each prisoner as such is lumped together with another for having a psychiatric problem, sometimes never diagnosed, sometimes diagnosed too late, when the nefariousness was already accomplished.

Compulsory psychiatric examination for all

It is 2024 and important, indeed extraordinary, steps have been taken in medicine... yet mental illness is still taboo. The most compromised personalities - that is, those most dangerous to themselves and/or others - are precisely the ones who shun psychiatry by coming up with the most fanciful excuses or - in the most serious cases - refusing to have a problem. As far as I am concerned, I would make psychiatric visits compulsory for everyone at the age of 18. It could be structured as 2 visits by 2 different specialists, and for those with any personality disorder, treatment should be free (as it already is), but compulsory, on pain of social exclusion. Because if one does not want to be cured for me he is free to do so, but he should not have the opportunity to ruin the lives of others.

An inmate is ALWAYS a person with psychiatric problems. A healthy person does not kill, injure, steal, rape, damage other people's property... just to name a few possible crimes a prisoner may have committed. Therefore, starting with a compulsory psychiatric examination and equally compulsory treatment might be a good way to avoid the problem afterwards...isn't it said that prevention is better than cure? Then, instead of worrying about what inmates do in prison, shouldn't we strive to treat them before they commit a crime? This would perhaps save two victims: those who committed the crime and those who suffered it. Because we must never forget that even those who commit a crime and go to jail are victims, at least of themselves and their illness. But then for me after committing the crime he changes his role: from victim he becomes perpetrator and thus loses his inherent right to a second chance. He has to earn that chance, it is no longer given to him.

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A second chance or a last meal?

Mirco Mastrorosa of Tuorlo Media read a short passage on how the last meal of death row inmates is experienced. A very interesting subject that - it is said - marks the boundary of the civilisation of nations. Yet I do not know.

Death row is a special section of a maximum security prison where inmates are locked up for up to decades awaiting their execution. In Italy, the death penalty has not been in force since 1948, but it is still in force in the United States, China, the United Arab Emirates, some African countries and Japan. Capital crimes are the most diverse: high treason, murder, genocide,

I admit that in the sole case of murder I am in favour of the death penalty as, in the best case scenario that the perpetrator gets life imprisonment, I find it absolutely unjust to keep a murderer for life and - worse - if he gets out after a certain number of years - often too few - I find it appalling that he has the opportunity to kill again. In this one case I am for serving a last meal, but not a sumptuous one as the victim certainly did not have time to enjoy an extraordinary last meal before dying. For all other punishments, I consider prisoners to be persons with more or less disabling psychiatric problems who deserve care and inclusion projects once they have been cured or are able to chronicle their impulses.

A second possibility: what does inclusion mean?

The words of the Professor Annaletizia La Fortuna, who chose to teach the hotel class of inmates at Bollate prison struck a deep chord with me. Her students are of different ages and backgrounds, but they all have in common that they have committed a crime that she herself may find abhorrent. In Bollate, I am reminded that there is a re-education project for those who have been guilty of the crime of rape, to name but one.

Sometimes giving someone a second chance is like exposing them or another potential victim to danger. Yet it is also right to give it to a prisoner who has committed a crime because to err is human. To be able to give this possibility, however, it is essential that the inmate is accompanied towards mental recovery, is taught a trade and is re-educated to life in society. For this reason, projects such as those at Bollate prison are something extraordinary, just as the people who work there are extraordinary.

For me, inclusion means giving a second chance to someone who is marginalised from social, political, economic and educational life because of a physical problem or crime. That is why 'inclusion' is a beautiful word. Everyone included, no one excluded. I think, however, of that teacher who spoke with charisma and heart while teaching a preparation to a student who committed rape. I wonder if she knows. If she pretends not to know. If she doesn't know. If she is not told. So many questions echo in my mind and do not stop. And if he doesn't know, if he suspects it. If he is afraid of it. To look him in the eye, to touch him. Because it is easy to talk about inclusion outside prison, but she is there. She lives and works there every day. And dealing with a prisoner is not like including an autistic child in a classroom. I am not saying it is easier or more difficult. I am saying that it is different. That it must be respected. And that it should not be forgotten.

For me, these women and men capable of making the word inclusion real are the true sunflowers of winter. Those who resist, despite everything, in the name of their ideals that are like a sun that guides them.

A-Second-Possibility-The Sunflowers-Milan