Dien Bien: Successful model reduces poverty rate, helps ex-prisoners restart their lives

For the last 15 years since its establishment, a model in Tua Chua district of the northern mountainous province of Dien Bien, has proven effective in contributing to poverty reduction and helping ex-prisoners reintegrate into society.

The “peaceful family clan” model and the heads of familiy clans have played an important role in managing, educating and helping ex-prisoners. 

Lieutenant Colonel Giang A Khu from Tua Chua district’s police bureau took us to a of those “red addresses” - houses of former inmates had come back to the homeland after finishing their sentence.

“Those who were released from prison once were the major concern of local police as the forces found it hard to help the ex-offenders in re-entry,” Khu said. “Many of the former prisoners relapsed into bad deeds as they could not find a way to restart their lives, thus disturbing local security and safety.”

The “peaceful family clan” model then has been seen as a firm spiritual pillar helping ex-prisoners restart their lives. And the heads of clans play a crucial role in receiving and assisting people who made a mistake.

We visited Giang A Tung, a 35-year-old man in He hamlet, Xa Nhe commune, Tua Chua district, in his new house which was built with the traditional style of the Mong ethnic group.

At first, Tung was hesitant to talk, but he then openly shared the wrongdoings he committed in the past, and how he has returned to the normal life.

Seven years ago, Tung was given jail sentence as he had affair with a teenager. After he was released in 2016, Tung came back to his village. The man said he felt ashamed and worried that villagers would laugh at him. So, he isolated himself from others, even his relatives.

“Seeing that I could not come out of my shell, head of the Giang family – Giang A Ky – and other family members along with local authorities encouraged me, introduced me to other villagers and gave me guidelines in production. I was very touched at their warmth and acceptance, and resolved to start a new life,” he said.

“I was hired by villagers to build houses and harvest crops. With my savings, and money I borrowed from family members, I bought goats and pigs to raise. As years passed, I have improved my self-esteem and returned to my normal life like many others in the village. I got married and have children, also built a new house. My family has recently escaped from poverty. I am very grateful to the Giang family and its head,” Tung said.

To help Tung integrate into the community, Ky had focused attention on discrimination and stigma against the ex-prisoner. As the commune Party secretary, and a reputable person in the village who has made many achievements in popularising policies and guidelines of Party, State, and promoting local economic development, Ky was entrusted by his relatives to become head of the Giang clan. In that position, Ky persuaded other clan members to accept Tung.

“Aware of my responsibility as the clan’s head, I have taken care of Tung while organising family meetings and persuading family members to welcome him back with love and warmth, and create conditions for him to live and work in the hamlet. Our family now has 45 households in He hamlet. Thanks to the acceptance of the family members, Tung has returned his normal life, re-enter into the community and work to escape from poverty,” Ky said.

A clan meeting in Muong Bang Commune, Tua Chua District. Photo: Lan Huong/baodienbienphu.info.vn

Most prisoners face many difficulties after finishing their sentence, without money or work.

With family support in re-entry and production, some of the ex-offenders have not only moved out of poverty but also got rich right in their hometown. That is the case of Mao Van Oi in Team 7, Muong Bang commune, Tua Chua district.

Ten years ago, Oi accidentally killed  a person with a homemade gun and was sentenced to prison. Six years after he was released, with the support of the Mao family, Oi opened a carpentry workshop at home that has helped to improve his finance.

Mao Van Niem, head of the Mao family in Muong Bang, said: “When Oi just completed his jail term, he faced a lot of difficulties due to his big family. Learning about his situation, we raised a production fund for Oi. With nearly VND100 million, Oi opened a carpentry facility that produces wooden furniture as ordered by locals. He has received many orders for such products as wardrobes, tables, chairs and beds. His family, therefore, has gradually escaped poverty and built new lives for their families.”

Tua Chua currently has 137 families, of which 90 (mainly belonging to Thai and Mong ethnic groups) have rolled out the “peaceful family clan” model, notably Giang, Sung, Thao, Mua, Quang, Tong and Lo families. Under the model, many released inmates  have rapidly reintegrated into the community, like Mua A Pao (He hamlet, Xa Nhe commune); Ca Van Khoi (Phieng Quang hamlet, Xa Nhe commune); Sung Vang Pao (Pang De B village, Xa Nhe commune); and Quang Van Ngon (Ten hamlet, Muong Bang commune).

Ex-offenders always feel guilty and ashamed, particularly with their relatives. They, therefore, isolate themselves from others. However, the “peace family clan” model in Tua Chua has changed their behaviors as former prisoners have been accepted by their families and given opportunities to restart their lives after long jail terms.

Thu Pham