German network affiliate, Morning Tears Deutschland e.V.,( http://morningtears.de/) has begun a campaign to create more child-friendly visiting spaces within Cologne Prison. The campaign, “Room to bond,” (https://www.betterplace.org/en/projects/20155?utm_campaign) is an initiative of BAG-S, (http://www.bag-s.de/) with assistance from Alanus University,( http://www.alanus.edu/eng.html) Morning Tears, Children for a Better World and SKM/SKF Cologne, which aims to raise €1,250 to carry out a series of renovations that would enhance the look and feel of Cologne Prison’s visiting rooms. Morning Tears and their partners recognize the importance, and inherent difficulties, of maintaining close relations between children and parents during a period of parental incarceration. All of those involved believe “Room to bond” will facilitate this trying time by creating warmer, more open spaces in which inmates and their children can communicate.
Morning Tears has laid out their plan through a series of six renovations. The concept and realization are the work of students from Alanus University, and the prison director is eager to see these plans come to fruition. The first of these renovations would tackle the “Tram Station,” where the prison and outside world connect. It is here where pictures created by inmates, illustrating their hopes, fears, and dreams, will be on display to give visitors a glimpse of the inside of the prison. Next is “Entrance Control” which, while a necessity for ensuring the security of the prison, is usually quite a difficult step for children. Within this room, the students plan to hang drapes printed with motifs designed by prisoners, which will be sewn and created within the prison. In order to help children through the long passageways from “Entrance Control” to the waiting room, the renovation has called for footsteps to be painted on the floor to guide the children to their fathers. Children will also be “accompanied” by Elli, a teddy bear, and a book of Elli’s story. After these long corridors, children will be led to one large waiting room, which will contain renovations aimed at appealing to teenagers, as Morning Tears believes they often feel alone and have many questions about their parent’s incarceration. To engage these teenagers, the walls will be decorated with graffiti and stencils featuring motifs from urban Cologne. Lastly, there are the visiting rooms themselves. The primary goal is to create an image of the outside world within the prison by bringing in nature, working to visually enlarge the rooms, and creating a space where relaxation and conversation can easily find their place. With a view to the children, the initiative plans to furnish the space with toys that are educational, fun, and above all, made to last, as well as blackboard paint on the walls and tables to provide as many surfaces as possible for creativity and communication among children and parents.
Morning Tears and the whole “Room to bond” team hope that the completion of these renovations in Autumn will create a more child-friendly atmosphere, which could allow for better visits and improved bonds between children and their imprisoned parents.