In less than a week, over 900 people trusted in Pietà by becoming their lenders and partners through the campaign organized by NESsT and Kiva! They are not only making this vision possible, they're making it stronger. Project Pietà is a social enterprise and clothing label that was founded by Thomas, a fashion designer, specifically to help inmates independently earn income to support their families while in prison. They are also able to build valuable work experience to assist in securing jobs upon release.
Inmates are paid a portion of the sale price for each unit of clothing they produce, resulting in a reliable income they can send home to their families. Upon release, former inmates can continue working with Pietà or seek jobs at other companies with Pietà’s recommendation and support.
The Kiva loan will help Project Pietà grow its business to employ more than 90 current and former inmates by 2018. Pietà plans to open an additional retail store in Peru and a new distribution center to support increased online and international sales. The loan will go towards the initial rent, furniture and computer equipment needed for the launch of these new facilities.
Thank you from the Founder, Thomas Jacob
"We reached our goal! Thanks to everyone from around the world who is now part of our mission! It feels truly amazing to see so many people believing in Pietà and believing in every human being! Thank you for the privilege of your love and your support in the name of all the inmates part of the Pietà team. Now, it's time for us to keep up this important work and develop Pietà locally and internationally."
Read about the context of Pietà's work and why NESsT was compelled to select Pietà for our Peru Portfolio.
The Prison System in Peru
Poor education, low wages and social exclusion are among the factors that are contributing to the growth of crime in Peru. Among the serious problems these jails face are overcrowding and a high rate of repeat offenders.
However, almost 60% of the total prison population are pretrial detainees. Every day, 31,000+ people are imprisoned without being convicted of anything - in some cases for up to two years - as they await trial.
Of all people in prison, more than 70% of male inmates and 85% of female inmates in Peru’s prison system have children to support at home and no opportunities for earning income legally while awaiting or serving their sentences.
Pretrial detention and incarceration causes loss of income and employment, and the ability to support family members or pay for housing that may drive other individuals to criminal activity. Americas Quarterly reports, “[Pretrial detention] creates a vicious circle: many of those caught in pretrial detention are already poor and unable to afford bail, which further hampers their ability to obtain legal counsel that can help them negotiate the pitfalls of the judicial system.”
Pietà directly tackles a key factor that has been found to correlate with future criminal offense: future employment. Through their work, Pietà furthers the use of rehabilitation through economic inclusion that is paving the way for prison reform.
Who are the partners of Project Pietà?
Project Pietà partners with inmates from all backgrounds: 18-68 year olds, men, women and trans folk, people with sentences of two years or 35, LGBTQ+, university grads and the illiterate. Most resounding is the fact that 95% of them have children, and the largest group working with Pietà are teen parents.
Pietà fulfills this desire for youth and adults who want to learn practical skills, earn a dignified income to support themselves and their family, and achieve their potential. They are able to send money to their children to continue their studies, and support the mothers who are left without a key source of income. Some are also able to reduce their sentences for each day of work they complete.
*Pictured are our partners from the prisons in Lurigancho & Santa Monica.
“Many of the prisoners that Thomas Jacob [founder of Pietà] works with do not need to be trained, as they had backgrounds in tailoring and garment-making before they were incarcerated. ‘Sewing is a widespread skill in Peru,’ says Jacob. ‘Knitting and embroidering is typical in the provinces, and generally among the most modest class, who are the most exposed to delinquency. But for others it has changed their lives.’" - The Guardian
Don Carlos, one of the founders of Pietà, is an exemplary role model that has made it possible for more inmates to work. He has been in Lurigancho for 13 years and his passion and diligence led to the development the stamping workshop that he directs and enhances every day. With Pietà, Don Carlos manages four inmates and oversees the workshop as point person to Thomas.
“If you don’t have something with which to occupy your time, your head fills up and that’s where the stress and sickness comes in. The best thing to do is to work. There are few people that believe in that, but we should promote the opportunity to work.” - Don Carlos
The Founder and Behind the Name
“Project Pietà clothing is the brainchild of Thomas Jacob, a French designer who moved to Lima in 2011 to pursue a job with a Peruvian fashion label. A chance visit to a neighbouring jail, Casto Castro, with a friend who was teaching the inmates French opened Jacob’s eyes to the possibility of a clothing project behind prison walls. ‘There were some unused sewing and knitting machines (in the prison). There were also a lot of wonderful, open-minded people – very far from the image you may have of prison inmates here – who wanted to get by, to learn a skill, to work, to earn money,’ says Jacob. ‘These people came from underprivileged upbringings and were idling in prison with nothing to make of their days. I felt that it was an amazing possibility for them to create something strong,’ he explains.” - The Guardian
Over the course of five years, Thomas has developed closed relationships with the inmates, sometimes seeing them more than their family members.
His vision expands beyond providing income and development opportunities for inmates while they are in jail. Pieta also hires inmates after their release. As they continue to expand their business, Pieta will provide training and employment opportunities in logistics, operations, and sales so that inmates directly manage the brand.
Beyond its commercial concept, Pietà represents much more than just a fashion label. Founded and registered by Thomas in 2012, it started full-time operations in 2015,when he left Chanel Latin America to focus on Pietà. Its name – coming from Michelangelo’s Pietà - represents resurrection, a second chance for inmates who want to fight for their families and succeed.