“Reading is an open door to freedom”: ex-lawyer Anne Sabater offers cultural escape to prisoners

The picture is worth a thousand words.

Inside her living room, surrounded by several hundred books stored in a wooden wall library, which runs to the four corners of the room, Anne Sabater reveals her universe.

“Reading is my whole life”she delivers with a smile.

An existence made of passion, of which the Dracénoise took care of each chapter.

Native of Toulon, Anne Sabater lived a large part of her youth in Madagascar, before returning to the south of France during her adolescence.

At the end of her university course, graduated from the Faculty of Law and the Institute of Political Studies of Aix-en-Provence, she passed the bar exam with flying colors and took the oath to the bar of Draguignan in the years 1970

“I teamed up with my husband Gérard, also a lawyer, and we had quite a long professional journey together, which lasted thirty-two years”she says.

But when it’s time to hang up their dresses, during the year 2014, Anne and Gérard wonder about how they will now occupy their free time.

“Our children and our grandson being far away, we decided to devote our time to people who need it. A civic retreat, that’s what we wanted!”

Gérard, for his part, is already very committed and no longer counts his hours spent with local associations. Anne, meanwhile, wants to learn about volunteering, in a world she knows only too well: the prison environment.

“Prison must punish, but also reintegrate”

“Prison has always been familiar to me as a lawyershe continues. But I have always perceived it as an unknown world, where there is a word to bring.”

First having the idea of ​​becoming a visitor, Anne discovers, through meetings and discussions, the existence of the local branch of the national association Reading to get out.

A turning point in the life of the one who is today the referent.

EBeing a prison visitor means providing valuable assistance at the practical and administrative levelcontinues Anne. But being a volunteer with Reading to get out means helping in a different way. To through books, words, reading.”

Obviously for this enthusiast who, every week, finds her way to the visiting rooms to accompany a dozen prisoners in a literary approach, both benevolent and reconstructive.

Because, for Anne Sabater, prison must, of course, first be a place of punishment, but also of reintegration and reconstruction.

“This reality does not please everyoneshe points out. It is true that not all prisoners are reintegrable, it is not a question of falling into otherworldliness. But helping these people is ultimately helping society.”

Anne Sabater’s commitment is all the more symbolic behind bars as he conveys this message, which the Dracénoise carries deep in her heart:

Reading is essential in the world, to build oneself, to be in touch with others and to try to keep a free will. It’s an escape… A real open door to freedom!”

Bring the culture into a sealed and decried environment

Human, benevolent and generous, Anne, her husband and the team that brings the association to life achieve their goal of “bring culture into an environment which, by definition, is impermeable, really little known and decried”.

Ten in number, the volunteers go every week – every fortnight for some – to the remand center.

Each has four hours of intervention and can accompany up to twelve detainees.

Concretely, the association – founded in 2014 by the lawyer and member of the national advisory commission for human rights, Alexandre Duval-Stalla – has a varied catalog of books.

When the volunteer meets the detainee, always individually, the latter does not ask any questions about his background or the reason for his incarceration.

The prisoner then chooses books from the catalog and must then make reading sheets, which he will discuss with the volunteer.

This support is solely on a voluntary basis.

In partnership with the remand center and its teaching centre, the local branch of Lire pour en sortie also organizes meetings with writers four times a year.

To go further, thanks in particular to the investment of the representatives of the association and the volunteer Olivier Theveneau, the Draguignan remand center has signed an agreement with the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Marseille (AP-HM) allowing the broadcast on its internal television circuit of 36 literary programs produced for the AP-HM Television channel, produced and presented by columnist Pierre Defendini.

“It’s not about reading into the idea that it’s good to be culturedAnne concludes. But to read to participate in the reconstruction. So that each inmate who wishes to allow himself to go where his career has not allowed him to go.

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