Olive Skills Help Rehabilitate Turkish Prisoners

In addition to pressing the olives grown on prison land, the facility also charges locals a small fee to process their olives.

Feb 6, 2018 8:46 AM EST
By Teresa Bergen

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Olives play an ever-increas­ing part in reha­bil­i­ta­tion at Izmir, Turkey’s Foca Open Prison. The prison’s work pro­gram has long included olive cul­ti­va­tion, but last year it added an olive oil pro­cess­ing facil­ity. In addi­tion to press­ing the olives grown on prison land, the facil­ity also charges locals a small fee to process their olives.

Growing food proved to the con­victs that their lives could be pro­duc­tive and have mean­ing despite hav­ing made ter­ri­ble mis­takes.- Pablo Solomon, Researcher

With the new facil­ity comes a plan to increase the exist­ing 3,500 prison-owned trees to 28,000 over the com­ing years. Foca pris­on­ers also per­form other agri­cul­tural and man­ual duties, includ­ing mak­ing fur­ni­ture, grow­ing organic veg­eta­bles, rais­ing live­stock and dairy farm­ing.

The prison grows mostly Edremit olives — known for their hard­ness and large pits — and Gemlik olives — oily black olives from north­ern Turkey with wrinkly skins. The olives are pressed in tem­per­a­tures between 30 and 35 Celsius, accord­ing to prison offi­cials.
See Also: Doing Hard Time in Italy’s Last Island Prison Means Making Olive Oil
Foca dis­trib­utes its oil under the brand name Fo-Ce,” ship­ping it to other Ministry of Justice insti­tu­tions inside and out­side of Izmir, Turkey’s port city on the Aegean Sea.

Prison labor is a con­tro­ver­sial topic. Detractors claim that pris­on­ers are exploited and under­paid for menial labor. Proponents say labor builds good habits and teaches use­ful skills pris­on­ers can use upon release.

Historically, pris­ons have had farms in many parts of the world. While this serves prac­ti­cal and logis­ti­cal pur­poses by pro­duc­ing healthy food for inmates and sav­ing food costs for the insti­tu­tion, many stud­ies have also looked at the psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits to inmates.


An American study of gar­den­ing pro­grams within pris­ons con­ducted by Rachel D. Jenkins, con­cluded, There is evi­dence for using prison gar­den­ing pro­grams as an alter­na­tive ther­apy to treat symp­toms of men­tal ill­ness and to help pris­on­ers gain voca­tional skills that can be used upon release.”

Pablo Solomon’s stud­ies, which included social psy­chol­ogy, eco­nomic botany, and crim­i­nal jus­tice, took him to visit many prison farm pro­grams in Texas in the late 1960s.

In those days, the pris­on­ers grew their own food, raised their own live­stock and even fruits,” he told Olive Oil Times. They also processed food, grew cot­ton, made uni­forms and mat­tresses and main­tained trac­tors.

Prisoners often have told me that work­ing in the gar­den and pro­vid­ing some­thing of value to oth­ers was a heal­ing, cleans­ing and free­ing expe­ri­ence. Growing food proved to the con­victs that their lives could be pro­duc­tive and have mean­ing despite hav­ing made ter­ri­ble mis­takes.”

Rehabilitating pris­on­ers through employ­ment is the aim of the Foca pro­gram. And, of course, pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity olive oil. We want to teach this pro­fes­sion in the right way,” Foça Open Prison’s Warden, Murat Yılmaz, told Daily Sabah.


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