At Seysses Correctional Center, inmates make A-Z T-shirts

the essential
At the penal center of Seysses, Mathilde Cervières founded the Populère brand. Thanks to her initiative, prisoners come out of their cells to make clothes from A to Z. A novelty in France.

Seated in front of his sewing machine, the man devotes himself to assembling different pieces of fabric, in the presence of a prison guard. Inmate Mr. D. is one of three men making T-shirts for the Populère brand this morning.

We are in the clothing workshop of Mathilde Cervières, at the Seysses prison, where a huge cutting table occupies the heart of the room. “It really is where everything happens,” announces the creator of Populère. On the sides, against the walls, five stations dedicated to sewing have been installed. Inmate Mr. D. occupies one. “I’m cutting the sleeves, my job is to make the t-shirt from start to finish,” he explains, engrossed in his work. “This job gives me a sense of freedom. I am more than just a prisoner. “During his stay in prison, it was the first time that Mr. D. touched a sewing machine, “I liked it, I fell in love with this job”, admits the prisoner, who, once back in his cell, she can’t help but study her own clothes, from every angle.
“The peculiarity of this laboratory is that it was created in prison. This is the first approach of its kind in France ”, underlines Arnaud Bourgoin, of the interregional directorate of prison services in charge of prison work for Occitania.

“Giving Meaning to Pain”

In the sewing stages, “there’s the cutting, the assembling and the sewing. Then ironing and labeling”, continues Mathilde Cervières, who spent 6 years in the prêt-à-porter, parallel to her university career. The young woman has been evolving in the prison environment for 10 years. “I started as a volunteer. Then, during my studies in clinical psychology, I went back never to leave it again. I continued my studies in criminology to end up in a prison counselor position. This is where I realized that work remains the first factor of protection against recidivism. It is essential to give meaning to the punishment of prisoners for it to be useful and beneficial», proclaims the expectant mother.

To carry out her activity, Mathilde Cervières surrounded herself with Angeline, a real seamstress who trains the prisoners in the various technical tasks. At first, her prison organization impressed her. “It’s heavy and requires a lot of anticipation. For example, all tools must be stored in a locked table. Pins included. Here we must not miss a single one, otherwise the supervisor will not let us out, ”she said. The Populère laboratory was born in January 2023. Since then, two days a week, it has been producing men’s and women’s t-shirts, in 100% recycled material. This morning only men are participating in the Populère laboratory, «but I hope to expand the operators, collaborate with other brands to produce via Populère and hire women», concludes Mathilde Cervières.

Mathilde Cervières has just opened an online sales site where her articles made in detention will be available from €45 on: You can follow her on her Instagram page ( Fr /)

Concessions for companies that use prison labour

On June 9, during a forum on prison work, the Populère laboratory will receive the PEPs label (Porduit en prison.s). In order to develop prison work, benefits are offered to companies that cross the prison threshold. “We provide them with premises, the management of human rights defenders is managed by the prison administration, we re-invoice them for water, electricity… The employees receive 45% of the minimum wage”, specifies Arnaud Bourgoin, from the department of interregional services. prisons in charge of prison work for Occitania.
“Prison work allows for many positive insights for inmates who thus maintain a professional life and a business. For victims, this can be a means of obtaining compensation. More generally, this helps to maintain the inmates’ capacity for integration ”, observes in turn Philippe Audouard, director of the Toulouse/Seysses penitentiary center, which welcomes 1,148 people, 95% of whom are men.
In Seysses, in addition to the Populère laboratory, inmates can work on the packaging of onions for supermarkets, on the reconditioning of internet boxes, on the assembly of furniture. .. Currently, 28% of prisoners work in Occitania. And 8% are in vocational training. “At Seysses, we have to be below this average. Here we have very high prison overcrowding which is an obstacle to access to work”, notes Julien Siguret, director of detention, responsible for work and training.

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