Brazilian Prisoners Shed Light, Trim Time, Drop Pounds.

Photo by montino|

For prisoners serving lengthy prison sentences in one Brazilian jail, ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ may now shine a little brighter, thanks to a new incentive by authorities to benefit both inmates and the local community at large.

On any given day, inmates at the Santa Rita Penitentiary can be found pedalling furiously at stationary bikes recently implemented to charge batteries that power streetlights in the town. By incentivizing the workout—16 hours of biking reduces an inmate’s sentence by one day—the program has become a popular one, and looks to potentially expand to other correctional facilities.

 Talk about turning the wheels of progress.

Since its inception, testimonials have noted increased fitness and weight loss, as well as inmates gaining a sense of pride in helping their communities rather than being shunned completely from society. Many, having been victims of crime themselves, recognize that their efforts may help reduce further crime and make new areas of the town—most notably its promenade—come to life during the night, as it once did prior to escalating gang violence, widespread vandalism and theft. 

Local citizens have come together to assemble the infrastructure necessary, recycling old bikes and having engineers volunteer their time to outfit them and install the batteries for charging. Daily, the batteries are then driven from the penitentiary to the city centre, where they are outfitted into the street lamps.

Though at the time the energy produced is not hugely significant, more wide-scale implementation will continue to inspire communal co-operation, bike-riding, fitness and the exploration of ingenious energy solutions. Importantly, this incentive serves to light a ray of hope for those that all too often feel marginalized while paying their dues by, quite literally, illuminating for them another road.