Luciana Delle Donne

Ashoka Fellow
Lequile, LE, Italy, Europe
Fellow Since 2016


This profile was prepared when Luciana Delle Donne was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2016.
The New Idea
Luciana’s mission is to ensure detainees can work and be paid while in prison, allowing them to use their imprisonment as a chance to learn new skills and secure employment once outside. Luciana is working to give a second chance and a new life to both people and products. Made in Carcere (made in prison) offers women real waged jobs while serving their sentences. They learn new skills that will allow them to choose employment rather than reoffending once they are out. Made in Carcere’s women produce textile products both for consumers and on behalf of other businesses. At the same time, Luciana’s work has an environmental impact, as she gives a second chance to waste material. Luciana involves several businesses in the large Italian textile industry to donate unused fabric to Made in Carcere, reducing waste and cutting the cost of production, so that more of the income can be used to hire new workers in prison.

Her model is based on the idea that the waste of one industry can be reused while at the same time providing a job opportunity to those who need it the most. She began her work in prison with textile products, but her model has already tipped to other industries. As a local foodstuff business found itself with oversupply of flour, Luciana accepted their donation and found a prison with sufficient equipment for cooking large quantities of food. She began a new production of biscuits made in prison.

Inmates in Italy cannot work unless they are offered a wage. The available work opportunities are almost entirely relegated to internal maintenance and upkeep of the prison, without any training or concern for what would happen once the inmates are released. Luciana transforms detention into a time for learning. She sets standards that are comparable to those found in the outside world, giving women with little or no experience in the non-criminal economy, not only new skills, but also the experience of life in a real company. By keeping themselves busy, women tend to behave much better, to improve in other aspects of their psychological and social lives. They have new-found pride, as they can pay for legal expenses and send checks to their children and families. The current re-offense rate for women who have gone through Luciana’s program is 0%. As she tries to prepare women for their return into society, Luciana wants the same for Made in Carcere. By embedding prisons at the center of the manufacturing process (in between textile production and sales), she hopes to make sustainable change to the role of prisons in society.

For this reason the Italian Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has noticed Luciana and has assigned her the task of creating a network of all experiences of work behind bars in Italy and to connect them into a production system called Progetto Sigillo. Once the MOJ money ran out, the consortium of prison’s workshops continued to survive only because of the demand created by the Made in Carcere brand. Luciana has managed to achieve what the government has tried and failed to achieve in years: to profoundly change the nature of detention using work to empower inmates to begin a new life, while at the same time paying them a real wage, as the law requires. She can barely keep up the demand from more prison directors wanting Made in Carcere to set up working labs inside their units.

Luciana began in the local prison of her town Lecce. She then moved onto Trani in the same region. She now works with 12 prisons all across Italy. Furthermore, she has managed to organize the different one-off programs of work inside prisons into an ecosystem of production. Whereas most programs would end once funding was over, Luciana has kept those alive by creating more demands for her products outside of prison, so that more inmates could be given a job. She has created a network of prisons in which inmates can work to create an interconnected ecosystem and one sales channel with its own brand. The system can be implemented in more countries. The key difference to other programs that seek to offer employment to inmates, is that Made in Carcere has made the fact that these products are made in prison the central element of its marketing strategy. Wherever there are prisoners and industries with left-over material, Luciana’s model will be replicable.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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