From punishing to rehabilitation and reintegration of prison inmates
Correctional services all over the world are gradually moving from punitive incarceration to rehabilitation of offenders while upholding human rights to achieve reintegration into mainstream society.
By Moses Magadza
WINDHOEK, MAY 28 – In this interview with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s Communications Officer for Southern Africa MOSES MAGADZA (MM), Namibian Correctional Service (NCS) Commissioner-General RAPHAEL HAMUNYELA (RM), shows why Namibia is hailed among leaders in prison reforms in the SADC Region.
MM: The NCS’ vision is to be Africa’s leader in the provision of correctional services. What are some of the key policies and strategies in place to achieve this?
RM: The Namibian Correctional Service is a member of the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) as well as the African Correctional Service Association (ACSA). These forums are innovative, learning platforms which enhance international and inter-agency co-operation. They actively promote policies and standards for humane and effective correctional policies and practices, assisting in their development and implementation. We believe that the NCS can tap a lot from these international forums as they provide a tremendous opportunity to learn best practices.
We introduced the Offender Risk Management Correctional Strategy (ORMCS) in 2008. Its implementation represents NCS’ modern correctional reform from punitive approaches to reintegration of offenders into the community. This approach changed how our staff work and how NCS ‘thinks about’ and reacts to offender risks and needs.
The enactment of the Correctional Service Act, 2012 (Act No. 9 of 2012) which replaced the Prisons Act, 1998 (Act No. 17 of 1998) brought about a significant change to support the modern correctional approach. It for instance replaced punitive terminology such as ‘prison’ to ‘correctional facility’, ‘prisoner’ to ‘inmate/offender’, ‘Prison Service to ‘Correctional Service’ and so on.
We have amended our Organisational Structure to have offices that are specifically dedicated to Rehabilitation and Reintegration as well as Performance Management to ensure implementation.
Additionally, we have built relations with renowned organisations and sister Services. For instance, we have a very good relations with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and over the years, the support from UNODC has been excellent. We also have several Memoranda of Understanding with other correctional/prisons services. We believe that to be the best we must learn from others.
MM: What are some of the key challenges that you are encountering as the NCS in realizing this vision?
RH: Despite economic constraints that we face, other challenges are related to the organisational culture that hampers the modern corrections approach as well as the demand for high performance necessary for this. Many of our officers are still embedded in the traditional prisons culture and some resist change.
We lack capacity both in terms of knowledge and number of staff to enable us to reach our vision. We need to do more to build the capacity of our officers and to retain those that we have.
MM: How do you ensure that you do not exceed the carrying capacity of your correctional facilities?
RM: The Namibian Correctional Service does not necessarily experience overcrowding. This may be attributed to the fact that offenders awaiting trial are largely still under the management of the Namibian Police Force and hence incarcerated in Police Cells. The capacity of our correctional facilities is officially 5 147 but our daily average population has been around 4200.
What we do experience is temporary overcrowding, particularly in correctional facilities that are in densely populated areas. The Oluno Correctional Facility, for example, caters for many police stations up north and sometimes it can get overcrowded. However, we address this by quickly transferring offenders to other correctional facilities to prevent overcrowding.
MM: What is the prevalence of HIV and TB in the country’s correctional facilities and what policies and strategies are in place to respond to SRHR, HIV, PMMTC and AIDS-related challenges?
RM: HIV Prevalence in Correctional facilities last stood at 13.2 % as determined by a 2014 study by Centre for Enterprise Development. TB Prevalence is not determined as there was no prevalence survey done.
We have many Policies and Strategies in place. They include: Namibian Correctional Service Health Policy, 2016; Namibian Correctional Service Health Strategy 2016/17-2020/21, of 2015; HIV and AIDS mainstreaming Guideline for sector Responses, 2010; and HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care, Treatment and Support in Prison Settings, A framework for an effective National Response, 2006
MM: The Nelson Mandela Rules have been hailed for setting a minimum package of services and care for people in confinement. How is the NCS ensuring that the rules are complied with and effectively implemented and monitored?
RM: First, I am proud to state that many of the Nelson Mandela Rules have been incorporated into our laws, regulations, policies and CG’s Directives. We worked in collaboration with the UNODC last year to determine the compliance rate, identify the gaps and train trainers of trainees to ensure that knowledge and implementation of the Nelson Mandela Rules goes wide and across the Department. We also utilize the commemoration of the Nelson Mandela Day, 18th July to educate officers on the Nelson Mandela Rules.
MM: Ensuring universal access to SRHR, HIV and AIDS services in correctional services requires buy in of all stakeholders in the system. How do you ensure that everyone, including senior officers, is sensitized on these issues?
RM: The Department employs Education and Awareness activities in SRHR and HIV and AIDS related issues. We have healthcare staff at Headquarters and operational level who continuously educate and update staff on the SRHR and HIV and AIDS with the assistance of UNODC.
MM: When was the Compliance Assessment to the Nelson Mandela Rules done and what were the main findings or lessons from the assessment?
RM: It emerged that ssome of the Correctional facilities’ settings were not complying with Nelson Mandela Rules. There is a lack of correctional facilities in some regions to address rule 59 of Nelson Mandela Rule. There are challenges including lack of office space compromising the confidentiality, especially at the hospital. In some instances, there were delays in meeting offenders’ basic needs’ amenities and there was resistance to change.
MM: What necessitated the Training of Trainers under the Mandela Rules and how many officers have been trained so far?
RM: The Namibian Correctional Service attaches great importance to the Nelson Mandela Rules and perceives the implementation thereof as a key performance indicator in reaching our vision to be Africa’s leader in the provision of correctional services. The training of trainers on the Nelson Mandela Rules aims at ensuring that all correctional officers know, understand and respect the Rules. The group of the trainers will be able to reach out to all our correctional institutions and deliver training to our correctional facilities on the Nelson Mandela Rules. So far 291 officers have been trained and as I said, we are trying to reach out to all correctional institutions hence 45 officers were trained as trainers. However, this will be determined by available resources.
MM: The NCS recently received support from UNODC to equip a clinic in Windhoek. Earlier, two ambulances were refurbished. What difference has this made?
RM: Very tremendous difference in that it has significantly enhanced our ability to provide healthcare more effectively and timeously. The effective provision of healthcare services does not only minimize healthcare-related complaints, but also enables offenders to have confidence in the healthcare services of the Namibian Correctional Service thereby making them feel safe and secure.
MM: What specific challenges does the NCS face in increasing equitable access to SRHR, HIV and AIDS services in its facilities?
RM: Lack of capacity building in SRHR, HIV/AIDS, PMTCT, PEP, NIMART, HIV Counselling and Testing training and refresher, Infection Control, VMMC and STI; lack of space in the existing structure; staff shortage i.e. Medical Officers, Nurses and Health Assistants; lack of a data capturing system on HIV, AIDS and TB; lack of medical equipment and supplies; and SRHR and HIV/AIDS services that are not integrated at facilities as all the services are available but in isolation.
MM: For many years, correctional facilities have been known as places of punishment. How is the NCS changing this perception and what should be the role of correctional facilities in the 21st Century?
RM: In our efforts to be Africa’s leader in the provision of correctional services, we are moving into modern evidence-based management of correctional facilities. That means punitive approaches should not have a place in the management of our Service. We have, therefore, made drastic changes as I explained earlier. However, we plan to go further to also address public misperceptions about what correctional services are all about. That involves educating the public about our mandate, our vision and mission as well as assuring the public that correctional service exists to contribute to public safety, not only through the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders, but also through educational sessions at schools, churches and other platforms to curb criminal behavior.
Correctional facilities in the 21st century should aim to provide tangible public safety results by employing modern effective and evidence-based correctional methods and models. We must stand alongside other peace and security agencies.
MM: Let us end on your legacy. How would you want to be remembered as Commissioner-General of the NCS?
RM: As a prominent contributor to reform in correctional service in Africa and abroad. I want to be remembered as the one who influenced change in African correctional services to be humble, honorable and noble organisations that take human rights and public safety seriously.