Prisoners throughout the Former Soviet Union are subject to especially harsh conditions. Chances of rehabilitation are low, and – as a result – families of prisoners suffer, too, having lost a breadwinner in a region where poverty is rampant. Understanding that prisoners can also one day become contributing citizens to society, local government officials have been instrumental in our attempts to make life for these unfortunate individuals a little more hopeful.
Aiming to rehabilitate Jewish prisoners and reunite them with their families, the Federation of Jewish Communities applies for and receives permission from the relevant authorities to visit inmates on a regular basis. Besides providing humanitarian aid, such as holiday packages, books and religious paraphernalia, Federation emissaries provide spiritual counseling and religious education. Indeed, in a land where distances are great, they are often the only familiar face a prisoner will see in the course of his/her incarceration.
Records kept by the FJC often assist local authorities in administrative matters; local rabbis are instructed on how to better deal with penitentiary officials; and the Federation also provides legal counseling to those who cannot afford it.
As a result, many prisoners see the veil of despair dissipate, enabling hope and rehabilitation – an inspiration to others.