Sunday 09 August 2020

A House without Walls

Earlier this summer, Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes announced that the second project of the Specialised Housing Programme will be run by the NGO Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl (MDD) in collaboration with the Institute of Family Therapy-Malta (IFT-Malta) .  The new project called ‘Dar bla Ħitan’ (House Without Walls)  will focus on people in prison still serving the last year of their sentence at the Corradino Correctional Facility.. The actual house which has been identified for the project by the Housing Authority, is located in Vittoriosa and will become a bridge to reintegrate people in prison with their families and children back in their homes. 

 IFT-Malta and Mid-Dlam ghad- Dawl have enjoyed a long-standing collaboration. This began with a research project concerning families of people in prison in which an IFT-Malta team interviewed families having one of their members in prison, in order to better understand their experience of life as they live it on the outside. This project and research, funded by the President’s Foundation for the Well-being of Society, resulted in a book titled ‘Locked Out – Families of the Incarcerated ‘ (Azzopardi & Bishop, 2016).

This unique publication highlighted several important recommendations about how to improve family life when one of the family members is away in prison. One precious recommendation involved the smooth return of the person in prison back home, while taking especial care of the marital and parental relationships involved.

Fast track to 2019 and the new project ‘Dar bla Ħitan’ which comes about after MDD invited IFT- Malta to design the project to tender for a Housing Authority competition aimed at utilizing old buildings for NGO services proposals. There were two buildings to bid for and more than 20 projects submitted. MDD & IFT-Malta won one of two bids with the project aimed primarily at setting up a specialist service for families and children of people in prison, to facilitate re-entry back home after the sentence. This Family Project is of great social importance since it will address the current lacunae in professional intervention to families of the incarcerated, especially children. It aims to reduce recidivism and transgenerational transmission of crime, by helping children have a more stable attachment to their parent in prison. Based on continuous  professional intervention, the service shall provide opportunites for people in prison and their families to engage in the programme one year before release. A family-friendly and child-friendly environment will back up specialist intervention using systemic family therapy sessions, multi- family therapy sessions, group therapy and individual psychotherapy, plus parenting education, play therapy, and other arts therapies.

While MDD will be taking care of the logistics of running the project, IFT-Malta will be providing all the necessary clinical and therapeutic services involved. The property will be restored to habitable standards at the government’s expense, whilst MDD is working on sourcing the necessary funds to run it year after year. The project aims to start operating late in 2020.

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