DiStanze in Gioco

“DiStanze in Gioco” is a research-intervention project on the relationship between incarcerated parents and their children, starting from the redevelopment and redesign of the spaces dedicated to children visiting their relatives in the penal institutions of Reggio Emilia.

Incarceration has negative repercussions on family ties and creates an often irreducible distance between detained people and their families.

From research concerning the detection of the impact of imprisonment on the prisoner's perception of parenthood, it has emerged that the entry into prison, even of just one of the parents, interrupts and alters the bidirectional and reciprocal nature of the communicative and interactive parent-child exchange, with completely negative consequences both for the resocialization process of the detained person and for the developmental path of the minor.

“The challenge of Reggio Children Foundation is to transmute the experience of Infant-toddler centres and preeschools from a strictly educational context into all places for childhood as a primary quality of the human being and therefore for all humanity [ ...] Space is not just volumes, it is relationships and talks about how we are together”.

“This project has the meaning of bringing the profound meaning of the city into a prison, the awareness of a great value of centrality of the person, which is the profound meaning of democracy and means raising the bar of the level of civilization of a community”.

“The playroom becomes a protected space in which children who visit their detained parent can find a space that is congenial to them, free as much as possible from tension and discomfort, which promotes affection and a newfound sense of family. Welcoming children in an environment suited to their needs, in a playful dimension means promoting the climate of family interaction and the relationship with the parent, maintaining strong relationships with full respect for children and parenting".

“Lavorando qui in carcere ho sentito forte la necessità di un cambio di paradigma dello spazio di incontro genitori detenuti e famiglie. Questo è uno spazio di frontiera, dove il dentro e il fuori si connettono e abbiamo così voluto, con il lavoro di tanti anche del carcere, pensare a come riprogettare lo spazio in modo da sostenere la qualità delle relazioni dei genitori, ma anche dei nonni e degli zii con i bambini e le bambine”.

“While working here in prison I strongly felt the need for a paradigm shift in the meeting space for inmate parents and families. This is a frontier space, where the inside and the outside connect and so we wanted, with the work of many including those from prison, to think about how to redesign the space in order to support the quality of the relationships of the parents, but also of the grandparents and uncles with the boys and girls."

“It was very important for this project to be born and to grow as a shared experience that brought into play a lot of professionalisms and sensitivities. We tried together to create micro-places, all characterized, to create moments of familiarity, in which we can simultaneously play, read a book together, talk, listen to each other".

Starting from the redesign of rooms, spaces and dedicated environments, the project aims to enhance the moment of the meeting and promote the quality of the relationship between the detained parent and the child, to bring the distances back into play.

The spaces dedicated to meetings between prisoners, their children and their families have been reconsidered, on the one hand, as tools for the re-socialisation treatment of the detained person, aimed at their social reintegration and the reduction of recidivism; on the other, as tools that promote the psycho-physical well-being of children, for their healthy and harmonious growth.

This research-intervention project, born in the Penal Institutes of Reggio Emilia and promoted by the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and by Fondazione Reggio Children-Loris Malaguzzi Centre, saw the involvement of multiple skills and triggered a virtuous process of dialogue and comparison between different professionalisms and sensitivities, which allowed him to listen and interpret the specific needs of the penitentiary context.

"DiStanze in gioco" was in fact approved by the Regional Directorate of the Penitentiary Administration for Emilia-Romagna and Marche, and was developed as part of the PhD in "Reggio Childhood Studies" with the collaboration of the Infant-toddler centres and Preeschools Institution of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia.

Among the actors involved were also the detained people, who personally took care of these new spaces, in particular as part of the Professional course "Skills for construction operators of structures", managed by ENAIP, and of the SemiLiberi project of the Cooperativa L'Ovile.

The project carried out the redevelopment of the spaces defined as "Playroom", open since 2005 within the Penitentiary Institutes, which needed renovation and rethinking.

The "Playroom" spaces were organized to allow conversations between adults on one side while on the other, separately, a play area was set up to entertain children.

Multidisciplinary reflection has led to a paradigm shift, creating a meeting space dedicated to the whole family, in which play becomes a way to create and strengthen the relationship between detained parent and child.

The two rooms, which need to welcome multiple families at the same time, were redesigned as a set of micro-places delimited by wooden profiles and transparent panels, characterized by a sense of lightness and protection at the same time. In this way it was possible to reconcile the families' right to privacy with the security needs of the institution, promoting the feeling of intimacy during meetings but, at the same time, allowing visual control by the prison police staff.

Furthermore, each micro-place is set up to suggest and encourage situations of interaction and symbolic play of daily life, further contributing to the creation of a domestic and family environment, to preserve and encourage the parent-child relationship.

Inauguration November 23, 2023

The project was inaugurated on November 23, 2023 with the interventions of Lucia Monastero, Director of the Penal Institutes of Reggio Emilia, Luca Vecchi, Mayor of Reggio Emilia, Carla Rinaldi, President of Reggio Children Foundation, and Susanna Pietralunga, Professor of Criminology, Department of Education and Human Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.

Contact us

Would you like to get in touch with Fondazione?

Contact us

Keep updated on events and news from Fondazione Reggio Children

Sign up to the newsletter
Sign up to the newsletter