Czech Prison Inmates Make Violins for Schoolchildren

The initiative has inmates at Odolov Prison in northern Czech Republic learning to repair instruments for donation to local schools

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Zdeněk Hetflejš (Photo Credit: Martin Veselý, MAFRA)

Since 2009, inmates at the Czech Republic's Odolov Prison have been learning to repair violins, violas, and cellos, and now, to make new instruments from scratch.

The scheme is the brainchild of prison guard Pavel Staněk, who was formerly a cellist in the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. He has brought woodturner and educator Zdeněk Hetflejš into the prison to lead a woodturning group, which now focuses on instrument repair.

Since the projec began in 2009, inmates have repaired over 200 broken instruments and made 30 new ones from scratch.

Many of the repaired instruments are given to local specialist art and music schools. Hetflejš and the inmates make the trip to the schools together so that they can personally hand over the instruments to schoolchildren. According to Hetflejš, the prisoners love to witness the moment when a child chooses an instrument they have worked on.

The inmates also undertake a range of other woodworking projects, including making toys for donation to nearby kindergartens and hospitals. Staněk says prisoners who take part rarely finding themselves back in prison after their release.

"The men who come here are able, regardless of their past, to collect, concentrate and devote energy to the production of instruments," Staněk said. "They realize that their past can be forgotten, overcome when they do something good."

"I did [wood] modeling in my youth, so I kind of came back to it," explains one prisoner. "I've always liked the smell of wood. Working with wood is soothing, I relax mentally."

You can view a Czech news report on the initiative below: