Saturday, May 10, 2014

Austrian "Convicts to Coaches" Program

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
A new program has started in Austria to rehabilitate criminals by training them to become ski instructors. We would have thought that Austria has plenty of ski instructors, at least judging by that country's success in the World Cup.  But we were wrong. We wanted to talk with our old friend and former Schladming police chief Hermann Mayer about this program, called Convicts to Coaches, but he was busy in Sweden investigating exploding herring (see this story). So we turned to someone who plays a law enforcement officer on TV, which was good enough to meet our journalistic standards. Jan Dose, the actor who plays Kriminalkommisar Robert Baehr on the German TV series Die Garmisch Cops, consented to an interview with one of our intrepid reporters. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: I see that Die Garmisch Cops is still on the air. I thought by now you would have run out of crimes for your team to solve. Garmisch is a small city and does not have much crime except for people riding their bikes the wrong way on a sidewalk while drunk.
Dose: You are wrong. This past season we had a murder plot with the local hockey team. We also investigated someone killed by falling beer crates. It looked like an accident, but we proved that it was really murder. If your research team was halfway intrepid, they would already know this.
BB: The Blickbild has the most intrepid research team in the business! Anyway, what makes you, an actor on a police show, qualified to talk about an Austrian prisoner rehabilitation program? 
Dose: Garmisch is on the Austrian border and my colleagues and I often work with our Austrian counterparts to solve crimes.
BB: Please tell our readers about the exciting new Convicts to Coaches program.
Dose: Austrian prisoners will get special training to become ski instructors. They will go through a six-month course and when they are finished, they can teach beginning skiers. If they want to continue, they can take another six-month course and become a certified race trainer.
BB: Doesn't Austria have enough ski instructors and professional coaches? Why would the authorities choose this career and not something like auto mechanics, heating system repair, or hairdressing?
Dose: That is the beauty of this program. Austrian ski trainers are in demand everywhere. Austria has enough trainers to meet the needs of the Austrian Ski Association. (OeSV). But other countries want to emulate Austria's success. The best way to do that is to hire an Austrian trainer. The USA has had a lot of success with its Austrian trainers.
BB: Is any criminal eligible for this program? Do other countries really want murderers or rapists to be their ski instructors?
Dose: The applicants are screened and certain criminals are not allowed: murderers, rapists, child molesters, or anyone else who committed a violent crime. The program only accepts those who committed non-violent crimes like: burglary, bribery, embezzlement, money laundering, tax evasion, or riding a bicycle on the wrong side of the street. They must also have at least one year left on their sentences.
BB: Wait a minute! People don't get thrown in jail for riding a bike on the wrong side of the street!
Dose: You don't watch Die Garmisch Cops, do you?
BB: I evidently don't watch it as often as I should. (short pause) Will other countries really take these new ski instructors and race trainers? After all, they are criminals.
Dose: The US Ski Team set the precedent by accepting Andreas Evers, who laundered money that his ex-girlfriend embezzled. As a matter of fact, one of the conditions for his probation is that he becomes one of the teachers for this program. Because of his infamy, he will never again be able to get a job as a ski trainer. But he can use his knowledge and expertise to train others.
BB: Who came up with the idea for this program?
Dose: Someone in the Austrian government who figured out that the main reason criminals commit crimes when they leave jail is because they don't have a job when they get out. By giving prisoners this training, they will have a good job when they get out of jail. When Austria sends its former criminals to other countries, they will be somebody else's problem. Austrians believe that everyone deserves a second chance in life.
BB: What about background checks? I'm sure that other countries will run background checks on their new ski trainers and find out that they were criminals.
Dose: The US Ski Team did not run any background checks on Andreas Evers. Or if they did, it was only to figure out whether or not he was a sexual predator. If an advanced country like the USA doesn't require strict background checks for its Austrian trainers, then it would be easy to send the new trainers to other countries who care even less about background checks.
BB: Will the OeSV take any of the new trainers?
Dose: If they seem to be talented enough, the OeSV may hire them. In Austria they would have to start at the beginning, teaching toddlers in diapers how to ski. If they want to spend years working their way up, that is their decision. But if we send them to another country, they can start off at a higher level.
BB: Won't other countries get suspicious about their new instructors not having much experience? The Austrian trainers in the States had a lot of experience before the US Ski Team hired them.
Dose: That should not be a problem. All Austrians know how to ski, so it's not like the newly minted trainers are beginning skiers. OK, there are a few Austrian football (soccer) players who don't ski, but nobody in Austria cares about football.
BB: Will the course be conducted solely inside prison, or will the students get to practice on a real ski slope?
Dose: In the summer and when the ski slopes are closed, the courses will be conducted inside the prison. Students will learn about the theory of being a ski instructor or race trainer in a classroom. They will  do practical training on a ski slope with each other and will also spend time observing experienced ski trainers. They will even have the opportunity to teach a real ski class.
BB: Won't someone be worried about some of the prisoners escaping during their practical training? One would think that being set loose on a mountain would be the perfect opportunity for a jail break.
Dose: The trainees will wear special black and white striped outfits. They will also have special wrist bracelets that will give them a strong electric shock if they go more than 100 meters away from their group.
BB: I see. Did anyone consider the possibility that the prisoners could be mistaken for members of the Finnish ski team?
Dose: That is why they have the wrist bracelets. Normally they would wear ankle bracelets, but they don't work with ski boots. There will also be guards supervising them.
BB: Will the prisoners get a diploma or certificate when they complete the program?
Dose: Yes. It will be like they went through a regular ski instructor training program.
BB: When will this program start?
Dose: Applicants for the program are currently being screened. The students will be selected in early June, with the first classroom training starting on 1 July. They will be up on the ski hills for practical training as soon as they open. The initial group will be 20 students. The next class for beginners will start in January. If any of the students in the first group decide to take the race trainer's course, that will start in January. The class size will be adjusted according to the international demand for Austrian ski trainers.
BB: I hope that this program is a success. It sounds like a real win-win proposition. Prisoners get rehabilitated with good job training and other countries get to have Austrian ski trainers. Let's hope it is a success. Well, it looks like we are out of time. Herr Dose, I want to thank you for this interview and I promise I will be more diligent about watching Die Garmisch Cops in the future. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: None of our reporters are former criminals, unless you count the one who stole his baby brother's lollipop.
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