Readers' Letters II: Disillusioned (II)

On Thursday the refereeing course for the players of UPAL (“A Pass to Freedom”), the rugby team that has been operating in the Villa Urquiza prison for almost six years, had its official presentation. The initiative aims to deepen the knowledge of the inmates in the technical and regulatory details of rugby, and in this way promote their interest in this sport, through which it is tried to transmit discipline and values ​​of coexistence. It is also an unprecedented proposal at the country level: although rugby in the context of confinement has already been implemented for quite some time in almost 70 prison institutions in Argentina, this is the first in which inmates will also be able to train as referees. Not only to learn about the game and direct the friendly matches that UPAL disputes with the clubs that visit the prison, but also with the possibility of joining the referee panel of the Tucumán Rugby Union after regaining their freedom.

Precisely, the rugby program that Patricio Perondi carries out week by week in the prison does not end in giving the inmates an activity that motivates them and allows them to channel the violence to which they have always been accustomed, but rather aims to achieve a transformation that transcends the prison walls. For example, among the UPAL players who have already served their sentence, the case of an inmate from Bolivia is cited who, after regaining his freedom, returned to his country, joined a rugby team and due to his conditions was soon summoned to the national team. Bolivian. Through sports, he found a better way. Perondi counts him as one of the great prides of the program, which currently brings together some 60 inmates from Villa Urquiza, including several maximum security inmates. There they train side by side, without distinction of sentence or flag.

As is often the case, concerns arise in this regard in the face of this type of initiative. A good part of society believes that those who are in there deserve nothing more than confinement and punishment for the crimes they committed, and they confess skeptical about the possibility of their reform. However, the rugby programs in the context of confinement that have been implemented in various prisons in the country and around the world have helped to drastically reduce recidivism rates. In certain places it fell from 60% to 4%, according to the Fundación Espartanos, which directs the rugby team of Unit 48 of maximum security in Buenos Aires and has advised many similar initiatives in the country, such as UPAL or “Los Infernales ”from Salta. Not only that: rugby as a teaching tool for discipline and values ​​has significantly helped reduce the level of conflict among inmates themselves.

“The vast majority of those who are here have always lived with violence and crime. It is very difficult to get out of that circuit, because they do not know another reality. That is what we try to show you: that there is another way to live. So that tomorrow, when they regain their freedom, they will never return to this place ”, explains Perondi, whom the inmates respect and thank for having transformed what was“ a tribe ”into a team.

The URT intends to one day extend the teaching of rugby and the dictation of the refereeing course in the Banda del Río Salí women’s prison, as well as to form a rugby team made up of prison guards and prison service employees, whose The number is currently around 1,200 in Villa Urquiza.

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