By Moses Magadza
WINDHOEK, MAY 19 – The Commissioner-General of the Namibian Correctional Service (NCS) Raphael Tuhafeni Hamunyela, will be among hundreds of delegates from all over the world meeting in Vienna next week to participate in meetings and events related to the 28th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ).
The CCPCJ is the principal policy-making body of the United Nations in the fields of crime prevention and criminal justice. Every year, UN Member States meet in Vienna and agree on resolutions to guide work related to different issues that include new trends in cybercrime, corruption, money laundering, human trafficking, organized crime and other threats.
With financial support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Hamunyela will become the first Commissioner-General of the NCS to attend this high-profile gathering.
He is scheduled to speak at three side events related to health in prisons and the revised United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules. The Nelson Mandela Rules set a minimum standard for the humane treatment of prisoners.
UNODC considers Namibia and Zambia – within Southern Africa – among trailblazers towards effective prison reforms as well as prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration. Additionally, Namibia and Malawi are the only two countries in the SADC Region that have completed self-assessment of compliance with Nelson Mandela Rules.
This week, Hamunyela said he was grateful for the opportunity to be on a global platform to tell “Namibia’s good story” in this regard.
In 2016 Namibia became the first SADC Member State to develop and launch a health policy and strategic plan for the Namibian Correctional Service. Since then, other African countries have been turning to Namibia for technical support in developing their own guidelines.
“For us as NCS to attend and share lessons during the CCPCJ is history-making. This is an opportunity for us to present to the world our mandate which is to ensure safe, secure and humane custody of offenders, and to rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders into mainstream community,” he said.
He stressed that upholding the human rights and dignity of people in incarceration was the key to successful reform.
“Unless an inmate feels safe and is treated humanely, all efforts towards rehabilitation and reintegration will fail. Our vision is to be Africa’s leader in the provision of correctional services. To achieve that, we need to do things differently,” the Commissioner-General said.
Stressing that the NCS was committed to providing exceptional correctional services that empower offenders to effectively reintegrate into society as law-abiding citizens, Hamunyela said facilities that accommodate inmates should not be places of punishment.
“While inmates are in our facilities, we connect them to their families and communities so that when they are released they can readily follow post-release programmes for successful reintegration,” he explained.
The NCS is implementing the prisoner rehabilitation component of the UNODC through the Doha Global Program which is financially supported by the State of Qatar. Through this programme, UNODC assists Member States in breaking the cycle of re-offending through effective rehabilitation and social reintegration.
For example, UNODC has helped the Republic of Zambia to rehabilitate inmates and to collaborate with a Non-Governmental Organisation offering post-release support. While doing time in correctional facilities, some inmates acquire useful skills. Once they leave, the NGO helps them find suitable employment and to access health-related services.
In Namibia, after an initial assessment mission undertaken in 2018, UNODC identified jointly with NCS three projects in Windhoek, Gobabis and Walvis Bay. In Walvis Bay, the NCS already had a card-making project for inmates so UNODC rendered technical support and provided two laptops, a Silhouette machine, two printers and other raw materials in February.
This project imparts vocational skills to inmates, thereby increasing their employability.
Additionally, UNODC is helping set up a soap manufacturing project at the Windhoek Correctional Facility. Expectations are that once the project is fully operational, inmates would acquire skills in soap making and operating relevant machinery. Detergents that will be produced are expected to additionally improve the hygiene of inmates.
Surplus products can be sent to other correctional facilities in Namibia or be sold to the public. That means NCS might in the long run stop procuring soap and detergents from outside, saving funds in the process. Money being used to buy soap now can in the future be used to buy raw materials to enable NCS to produce its own soap. That would make the project self-sustaining or sustainable, a key consideration or target wherever UNODC collaborates with a stakeholder.
Also, in Namibia, UNODC is helping NCS to set up a hydroponics project to grow vegetables in Gobabis. This is an agricultural method of growing plants without soil by using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent.
The Gobabis project is expected to produce vegetables that can be consumed by inmates to boost nutrition and/or sold to the public. UNODC is partnering with World Food Programme (WFP) which will offer technical support under this project.
In health, UNODC is supporting NCS implement a Sexual Reproductive Health Rights programme to improve inmates’ access to relevant services.
The 28th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice starts on the 20th of May 2019 and ends on the 24th of May 2019.
–Moses Magadza is Communications Officer for UNODC Regional Office for Southern Africa.