1997 – A More Humane Prison

Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl’s 1997 National Campaign

Barely a year after Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl’s public appearance, this was its first national campaign, the one that set the rhythm for the rest, and the one that confirmed the organisation’s public image. The theme of the campaign — expressed with just two words in Maltese: “Habs b’Umanità” — articulated the whole of Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl’s beliefs and principles. The campaign, in fact, served as an appropriate introduction of the organisation and its ideal to the Maltese public.

The campaign began on January 9th, 1997, when the Steering Committee of Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl convened at Marsascala. The aid of the campaign was to make the general public more aware of the need that the prisons be a place that builds people not ruins them.

As a logo for the campaign (see below), Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl chose the “Vetruvius Man” image of Leornardo da Vinci. The image, a symbol of humanity, appears encircled with barbed wire, which is a symbol of captivity and subjugation. The whole logo, then, indicates the oppressed humanity within the prisons, but also the nobility and sacredness of the human dignity of every man and woman.

The campaign also included some publications and even a plan for a video presentation in collaboration by the national television station.

The campaign was held over a one-year period, and was a success. This may be clearly seen from the fact that the very words (in Maltese) “habs b’umanità” (literally meaning: a prison with humanity), used as the campaign’s motto, entered the normal parlance of many people, including those responsible for better conditions at the prisons, and even the civil authorities. More or less, the words “habs b’umanità” began to be used as a substitute for the other much-stretched word, “reform”.

Back in 1995, the Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl’s founders had stated: “We are not trying to give the impression that the prisoners are angles. What we are saying is that, if people have to pay their dues to society, then they must do this with dignity and respect in an environment suitable for this”.

Part of this campaign included introducing the public to the concept of the “Day with the Family” system for prisoners. This project, however, was not developed completely, but just introduced. It was left for a later national campaign.

All in all, the 1997 national campaign towards the awareness of the need for a more humane prison, which was the bottom line of all Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl.