Maintaining contact with relatives and peers goes beyond a ‘nice to have’; it’s a fundamental human need. The ability to socialise, and maintaining contact with family and peers, even in a limited way, plays an important role in individual wellbeing and socialisation.

Unfortunately, the rigid social distancing that has become necessary during the current unprecedented situation has had a significant impact on those living in contexts where the ability for contact with the outside world is already limited, such as prisons.

Cisco has been involved in partnerships with number of Italian prisons for decades – offering Networking Academy training programs aimed at enabling the social reintegration of inmates. Such projects are a part of Cisco’s long-standing commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities in Italy.

Now, as an extension of these activities Cisco has worked with a number of institutions to deliver videoconferencing via its Cisco WebEx platform, alongside the necessary support services, in order to allow prisoners to continue to hold meetings virtually.

This WebEx program was initiated in mid-march of 2020, starting with a prison in Bollate, a municipality close to Milan in Northern Italy. It has since been rolled out to a further thirty five correctional facilities across Italy, including the Regina Coeli institution in Rome, the San Vittore institution in Milan, and the Gela institution in Sicily. And this number is growing every day.

Cisco WebEx, which is available via a free license to download, is providing prisons with an easy-to-use, rich videoconferencing solution that does not over-tax their technological infrastructures. Using the WebEx-enabled equipment, it is possible for prisons, on average, to conduct around thirty to forty virtual meetings a day, maintaining those all-important social contacts.

The rapid expansion of this valuable project has been made possible by two key factors. The first is the extraordinarily helpful collaboration shown by the staff of the various correctional institutions involved. The second is the actions of the ‘Cooperativa Universo’ – a ‘co-operative’ social organisation – founded by Lorenzo Lento, who has trained over 1,000 Netacad students since he initiated a NetAcad program in Bollate institution twenty years ago.


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