The government on Thursday signed a contract to launch the first specialised support service for inmates who were involved in prostitution.

The service is the first of its kind supported by the State and is part of proposed reforms in prostitution that the government approved last year.

The €40,000 contract will match inmates with volunteers and social workers at Dar Hosea to teach them the necessary skills to get out of the vicious circle of prostitution.

The volunteers will provide social support and will teach inmates skills, Sister Salvina Bezzina from the St Jeanne Antide foundation said.

Speaking at Castille, Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms Julia Farrugia Portelli said the government saw people in prostitution as victims, not as criminals.

"This is the first exit programme, and we want to look at [the victims] from this aspect," she said.

She said she had been inspired by a woman who had managed to get back on her feet thanks to support from Dar Hosea.  "I met this woman when she was still caught up in prostitution, after her husband forced her into it," she said.

A year later, thanks to support from Dar Hosea, the woman found the strength and courage to leave her husband and start working. When the MP met her again, she spoke of building a normal life: buying a second-hand car and renting her own apartment, Ms Farrugia Portelli said.

The Jeanne Antide Foundation and the authorities signed the agreement on Thursday. Photo: Jonathan BorgThe Jeanne Antide Foundation and the authorities signed the agreement on Thursday. Photo: Jonathan Borg

The exit programme will help build a bridge between victims and service providers so that they can build a strong foundation before they leave the correctional facility, the Parliamentary Secretary said.

Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia said authorities wanted to ensure that the children of victims did not get caught in the cycle of prostitution. It was important to think of the families of those incarcerated and their children, he said.

Aftercare was also important because rehabilitation needed to be continuous, he said.

“They need to find somewhere to turn to. We are working to help those most vulnerable to help them go on with their lives," Dr Farrugia said.

The government would also be looking to extend the services of Dar Hosea, so that inmates would be able to enrol in programmes that will allow them to get paid and invest in their future, Dr Farrugia added.


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