To the government, they are considered inmates.
But to their boss, they are workers and residents.
Just two hours north of Paris, in the region of Picardy, roughly 15 prisoners are completing their sentences far from their jail cells. Instead, they are working on the Moyembrie Organic Farm, run by Anne-Marie Pery, a one-time school teacher and former prison social worker.
“The corn stalks over there are like the prison bars,” Pery explained, pointing to the edge of the property. “The inmates can’t go beyond them without being accompanied by a guard. But within the twenty acres of the farm, they can roam freely. One mustn’t forget that they are coming from tiny cells.”
The 15 prisoners on the farm, which opened in 1990, were selected by judges and psychologists according to their profile and personalities. The candidates were then submitted for approval by the farm’s directors.
Admission to Moyembrie is selective, with those who succeed in making the cut expected to prove that they have ambitions they plan to pursue after completing their prison sentences.
‘Learning everyday life, all over again’
Aurélien, 21, is the youngest of the inmates currently living at the farm.
“I have a degree from cooking school, but this is this the first time I’m actually raising livestock,” he told FRANCE 24 as he ushered goats into their pen. “I’m happy to be here.”