In Brazil, children go to prison from the age of 12. Tragically, most of them are back in prison within a month of being released. After many years of working in São Paulo’s youth prisons, I wanted something radically different to help these boys. I longed to help them think and behave differently so that they would stop reoffending. So I started praying about how we could reach them in a better way.
A new approach
Before I went to Brazil I worked as a professional actress and drama teacher. I started wondering if I could use drama with the boys. I read two books: one about restorative justice and another about psychodrama (a type of therapy where participants act out different scenarios to gain insight into their problems). After further study, I decided to put restorative justice and psychodrama together. I created a new project called ‘Breaking the chains’, working with a team of professionals at the youth prison.
We started the work in a unit for young offenders who had committed serious crimes – murder, kidnapping, bank robberies, armed burglaries. They had been in prison multiple times.