Raphael Martius attended the Global Leader Experience in Belo Horizonte, Brazil in August this year. The programme, delivered in partnership with Fundação Dom Cabral, brought together 100 students from seven universities. Over three days, the students investigated one of Belo Horizonte's most pressing challenges: "how can we address the problem of violent crime in Belo Horizonte so that people feel more secure in the city?" After a briefing from Colonel Cláudia Romualdo of Polícia Militar de Minas Gerais (the state Military Police) and leading criminologist Braulio Alves da Silva Figueiredo, the students visited ten organisations across the cities to help them grapple with the challenge. Raphael visited APAC, an alternative facility to traditional prisons.
I had an unforgettable experience visiting APAC (Association for the Protection and Assistance to Convicts) in the city of Nova Lima. The institution's central philosophy was: "Kill the killer and save the man"
The Brazilian prison system is home to almost 700,000 people. Of that number, approximately 2,500 men and women are held in over 150 APACs across Brazil. The main objective of APACs is to dignify and enhance the lives of the inmates in order to rehabilitate them back into society.
I confess I was slightly afraid; the negative perceptions we have of these people is unfortunately a view that was stiffly rooted in my mind.
But on arriving to APAC, we were greeted by an inmate from the semi-open regime. That's right! There were no police or prison officers awaiting us, nor was there for the entire visit. And unlike other prisons where inmates are called by number, all the inmates here were addressed by their own names.
Ciceroneados, an inmate from the semi-open regime, expressed his satisfaction at being able to serve his sentence in the APAC system. We could see in his eyes that his only desire was to behave properly so that he could become rehabilitated back into society, with his family.
All 'rehabilitees' are responsible for the activities and tasks undertaken in APAC (cleaning, feeding, carpentry, cooking and caring for the garden), the external employees are only responsible for administration duties such as finance and logistics.
I also want to emphasise that at no time did we feel intimidated; all inmates, of their own accord, spoke with us, showed their work, reported their experiences and were keen to demonstrate that this was a place of ordinary people who, despite their situation, lived their lives with content.
We did not question the reason for the detentions - there were people convicted of murders, thefts and drug trafficking, but our goal was to hear about their experiences since their convictions and explore firsthand an example of how you can approach correctional facilities in a non-draconian way.
The opportunity was a rewarding experience for me as a human being. I have since contacted the manager of APAC and hope to work there as a volunteer sometime soon. One thing the visit taught me was the multitude of opportunities there are to help others and contribute to society, and not always in the ways that initially seem obvious.
My Common Purpose programme was a fantastic experience because I was able to create new networks with other students and meet people who helped me to build new ways of thinking. To become a leader, you need to listen to other people and recognise their needs. My programme helped me to develop that skill.
Common Purpose is running Global Leader Experiences in the 50 Magnet Cities of the world. A Magnet City has students from over 100 countries studying in it. So that students don't just graduate as Economists and Engineers. They are also networked, responsible, global leaders with Cultural Intelligence.