Decathlon has instituted a new e-cycling program for prisoners at the Oudenaarde maximum security prison in Belgium, with the goal of improving “mental health and behavior, as well as improving their chances of rehabilitation”, says the French retailer.
Decathlon says its initiative is part of the company’s greater vision of making sport accessible to all, offering the prisoners the opportunity to train and race with other riders outside the prison walls via the virtual cycling platform Zwift.
According to Decathlon, each of the six prisoners is being supplied with a bike, a connected smart trainer and all other necessary equipment to compete virtually, while a team of judges consisting of members of Belgium’s Department of Justice, prison guards and other law enforcement staff will oversee the races.
Thomas Lejeune Debarre, Marketing & Communication leader of Decathlon says, “with this project, we want to show that sport brings people together, despite differences or prejudices. A shared passion, in this case cycling, puts all this aside. We believe that sport is the key to teaching people how to live together, help and respect each other.”
Heather Loontjens, the sports deputy of Oudenaarde prison adds, “our mission is to create maximum interaction between inmates and society, with sport as a key element. The Breakaway is a new step towards achieving this. All our partners aim to give prisoners an opportunity to engage and connect with cyclists from outside the prison. This kind of experience gives them a better chance of success when they are eventually released, making it a win-win for the individuals involved and for society.”
The Breakaway was created in collaboration with De Rode Antraciet vzw, a non-profit organization promoting sports and culture within prisons, Cellmade vzw, and the Belgian Department of Justice.
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