Prevention in Sicily of social and cultural marginalisation; minors in districts at risk.

“Free to Choose” at the forefront also in Sicily.

Sometimes the title of a project fully expresses the value of the project itself is the case of ‘Free to choose’.

Three words that reflect the soul of a project that has a specific objective: to give an alternative to minors belonging to organized crime families. The criminal context and its negative values in fact prevent young people from forming an individual conscience.

These are subjects involved, sometimes, even in very serious crimes. Minors and young people whose freshness and curiosity typical of young age is obscured by the suffocating cloak of silence, dis-value, archaic and in some ways tribal beliefs that characterise the criminal system.

The impossibility of detaching oneself from the suffocating criminal ‘culture’ removes a primary character from the penalties provided for by the law, especially when one considers the fact that they are minors: the re-educational purpose of the sentence.

The simple condemnation of crimes, without this allowing a minor to have an alternative other than the criminal system, is not enough, it would be a defeat for the legal system and for society as a whole. “Free to Choose”, on the other hand, acts on the re-education and reintegration of minors from organized crime circles. Identify individual paths tailored to the nature and attitudes of the individual.

Awareness-raising in action

The key word is not ‘confinement’ but, on the contrary, ‘inclusion’. The project aims to allow the young adult or minor in question to redesign their existence through the psychological support of specialized teams, through educational paths that also include insertion into the world of work.

Removing a minor from his or her family context is a severe but sometimes necessary measure for the protection of the same minor. Offering an alternative life presupposes teamwork that can only be offered by the collaboration of different subjects.

Moreover, there is also a cultural and preventive sphere which represents another aspect of the project, the human and social terrain in which the seed of the culture of legality is sown, better resists the tentacles of organised crime.

Training and meetings with students reinforce the effectiveness of the entire project. The advantage of ‘Free to Choose’ is to propose an inclusive approach of different realities, which through memoranda of understanding. coordinate to achieve the same goal.

Ministry of Education, University and Research, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of the Interior, Episcopal Conference of Italy, Minister of Equal Opportunities and the Family at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, National Anti-Mafia Directorate, Juvenile Court, reality of anti-mafia associations such as Libera are among the parties involved in the project.

The value of the approach and the results achieved means that the project was initiated and financed by various regions starting from Calabria. In fact, the project was born in Reggio Calabria, under the impulse of the Magistrate Roberto Di Bella, President of the Juvenile Court, a role he currently holds in Catania.

A wide diffusion that rewards the method and objectives of the project, which can also represent an important resource in the Sicilian context. The prerequisites are there from different points of view, there is the need to tackle the fight against the mafia also by preventing the generational change, there is the need to save those lives otherwise inexorably in the hands of the criminal system, there are resources human, social, associative so that the project continues to sow seeds of hope.

Without forgetting that

“The fight against Mafia must first of all be a cultural movement that gets everyone used to feeling the beauty of the fresh scent of freedom that opposes the stench of moral compromise, indifference, contiguity and therefore complicity”,
words of Paolo Borsellino, a true Sicilian.

Alfonso Gelo

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