Eighteen prisoners about to be released from the Neveh Tirza women's prison have completed a fingernail-building course, intended to provide them with a profession for life after prison.
During the past two months, the prisoners have learned how to mount artificial nails, polish them and decorate them in various ways. Nail building has become a lucrative profession in Israel over the past few years and several prisoners were eager to study it.
"A regular client spends NIS 120 to NIS 200 a week looking after her nails, getting artificial nails made and polishing and decorating them," a Prison Service source said.
A mother of four, aged 36, who is due to be released in about two months after serving three years, joined the course to prepare for life outside prison. "The course made me believe in myself and gave me a chance to train in something not technical, something more delicate and feminine," she says.
Although she was allergic to some of the materials used in nail building, she decided to join and passed the course with flying colors. "I'm seriously considering working in this field when I get out. I hope to work in a nail building institute and later run such a place," she says.
Nissim Kashi, head of the Prison Service employment department and the man behind the initiative, says "our approach is simple but tested: a released prisoner who can make a living will find his place in society faster. A good job is not only a source of living but a framework enabling a normal life routine."
Prison Service officials are convinced that the professional training courses for prisoners in recent years have considerably reduced recidivism. "Between 50 to 60 percent of the released prisoners worldwide return to crime and to jail," says Kashi. "Only 43 percent of the prisoners released here in the last five years lapsed again. That's a real achievement."
Last year the Prison Service held 27 courses for 500 prisoners in carpentry, sewing and paving, among other subjects.
While senior Prison Service officers were initially hesitant about the nail-building course, the prisoners were enthusiastic. "They saw a chance not only to gain a profession but to deal with something aesthetic and to beautify each other's hands and feet," says Kashi.
Each prisoner also takes a course in starting up a small business and graduates with a certificate from the Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry.