A drama therapy project inside the confines of Lebanon's Roumieh prison aims to help rehabilitate inmates, or make life-long incarceration and awaiting execution just a little easier to handle. Mana Rabiee reports.
This isn't routine theater. These are inmates in Lebanon's Roumieh prison - performing a play about living with mental health issues while incarcerated. Some of the performers, like some in the audience, suffer from mental illness themselves. An NGO called Catharsis designed this project as 'drama therapy' to help make prison life - or eventual rehabilitation -- a little easier .... but especially easier for inmates of the "Blue House", the part of the prison that houses men with mental disease. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) UNIDENTIFIED PRISONER ACTING IN PLAY, SAYING: "They stay all their lives in Roumieh prison, in a room, maybe humidity will eat them, nobody takes care of them, those of the blue house, that people say are crazy. They are really wrong to say that." Some of the men at Roumieh are here for life; others are awaiting execution - including some of the 40 or so men who are performing. The theater project is funded by a European Union human rights program that aims to help reform Lebanon's penal code system, which says "insane" prisoners must be kept incarcerated until they're - quote -- "cured from insanity". However long that takes. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) UNIDENTIFIED PRISONER ACTING IN PLAY, SAYING: "We have a very big message to tell our brothers in the blue house, to the people who are mentally ill, those not having justice: that we are with them, we are in solidarity with you, we didn't forget you."