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27 August 2013 No comments

Behind (Handle)Bars.

Curiosities Stories
Behind (Handle)Bars.
We're assured that the man holding the gun isn't there to encourage faster rates of cadence. A prison in Brazil has a bicycling project up and running to tackle the twin challenges of overcrowding and useful rehabilitation. It has nothing to do with sending GPS tracked inmates on circumnavigation world record attempts. The governor of Santa Rita do Sapucai's correctional facility in the southeastern province of Minas Gerais has joined forces with the town's thriving tech community to channel prisoner energies literally away from the Dark Side. Together they have managed to get their hands on a fleet of previously owned bicycles and adapted them to look at first glance like rudimentary hometrainers, or something from Rollapaluza. But these machines have been wired to car batteries so that with every turn of the cranks, recovering malfeasants help charge them back up to full. The batteries are then used to power street lamps in a previously dimly lit and anecdotally dangerous little plaza in downtown Santa Rita. A couple of six-hour shifts in the saddle results in a full day shaved off the captive's sentence. To avoid abuse of the system, time won pedaling is non-transferrable, nor can it be pooled by riders to get specific, and possibly more feared, detainees freed ahead of their planned release date. "She's smuggling a 20 inch front wheel inside my next cake, and then I'm out of here. You'll see." The response has been good, with several prisoners combining bike credits with a tandem project that gets them a month off for every seven books they read. At any rate, most participants have also noticed marked improvements in their Cardio, which tends to be neglected in favour of the high intensity strength workouts more common to South American prisons. Allied to some good behaviour, a five year stretch for Aggravated Burglary could thus quickly mutate into an eighteen-month walk in the park, with the only future thefts likely to be carried out by highly literate hard-riding ex-cons stealing precious breakaway seconds and minutes from flabby pelotons all over the South American continent. And judging by the the way things are going, that park is likely to be extremely well lit, and safe to spend, um, time in. These men can produce upwards of 30 boiled egg hats in a single shift. Elsewhere in the Brazilian penal system, detainees are being coaxed towards usefulness with (unsharpened) knitting needles. When a clothes designer in Areas Valdo Campos Piros couldn't meet the mushrooming demand for her fine woollen hats, shawls, and scarves, she enlisted the help of her local prison's residents to handle the Christmas rush. Merino base layers are as yet still conspicuous by their absence from the product line. But three days knitting, or two spent skillfully crocheting, wipes a day from the slate. And the remuneration package is fairly competitive, with an hourly rate close to the Brazilian minimum wage rising to a sky's-the-limit arrangement if you're a particularly fast and tidy knitter. In the context of our plans to open a Brooks flagship store in London this year (more of which anon), it's a payment structure that has provided ample food for thought. Thriller In Manila. Filipino jails have neither bikes nor wool, but most of them have a tannoy. Sadly this last one isn't from Brazil. And no sentence-reducing incentives were at play. Nor did any money change hands, and nor can we establish any tenuous saddle-related link. Anyone who can, may feel free to do so in our Comments Box. Trouser Strap for the best from a minimum of ten entries!