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Inmates in Brazilian jail cycle to freedom

July 11, 2012 • World News


In this photo taken Friday, July 6, 2012, Ronaldo da Silva, left, and fellow inmates pedal stationary bikes to charge car batteries at a prison in Santa Rita do Sapucai, Brazil. An innovative program allows inmates at this medium-security prison to shave days off their sentence in exchange for riding stationary bikes hooked up to converted car batteries that are used to illuminate Santa Rita do Sapucai’s town square. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

SANTA RITA DO SAPUCAI, Brazil (AP) — Brazilian inmate Ronaldo da Silva was making an escape of a sort as he hopped on a bicycle and pedaled furiously, clocking up several miles (kilometers) before jumping off.

Silva didn’t get very far, in fact not an inch. He’s still inside the medium-security prison where he’s serving a 5.5-year sentence for holding up a bakery.

But he did move a bit closer to freedom on his stationary bike. Silva is part of an innovative program that allows inmates to reduce their sentences in exchange for generating power to help illuminate the town of Santa Rita do Sapucai at night.

By pedaling, the inmates charge a battery that powers 10 street lamps along a riverside promenade. For every three eight-hour days they spend on the bikes, Silva and the program’s other volunteers get one day shaved off their sentences.

The project in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais is one of several across Brazil meant to cut recidivism by helping restore an inmate’s sense of self-worth. Prisoners elsewhere can trim their sentences by reading sentences — in books — or taking classes.

Officials say they’ve Login to read more

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