Convicts Swap Cells for Monastery

April 10, 2010

Well-behaved prisoners in the nation of Georgia are being offered the chance to spend time in a monastery to serve out their sentences, as part of a plan to reduce prison overcrowding, Tom Esslemont reports from Tbilisi.

It is not hard to spot Tariel Maizeradze in the crowded chapel.

He wears a flowing red robe, while the others, the monks, sport black cassocks and neat hats.

The main difference, though, is that Tariel is not a fully-fledged monk, but a prisoner now serving out his sentence at the Father Ambrosi Khelaia monastery near Tbilisi.

Having spent four years behind bars and barbed wire, he is now allowed to roam the calm surroundings of a pine forest on the outskirts of the city, as one of the first candidates in a government-led rehabilitation programme.

A devout Orthodox Christian, he shows me around the monastery, explaining his daily ritual.

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