Namibia to share prison lessons

Namibia has made good strides, with international help, to reform its prisons.

21 May 2019 | Ministries

Namibian Correctional Service (NCS) commissioner-general Raphael Tuhafeni Hamunyela will be among hundreds of delegates from all over the world meeting in Vienna this week to participate in meetings and events related to the 28th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ).

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, organised crime and other threats.

With financial support from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Hamunyela will become the first NCS commissioner-general to attend.

He is scheduled to speak at three side events related to health in prisons and the revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules.

Hamunyela said last week he is 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 NCS. Since then, other African countries have been turning to Namibia for technical support in developing their own guidelines.

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. To achieve that, we need to do things differently,” the commissioner-general said.

He stressed 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 Programme, which is financially supported by the State of Qatar.

While doing time in correctional facilities, some inmates acquire useful skills. Once they leave, the NGO helps them find suitable employment and access health-related services.

In Namibia, after an initial assessment mission undertaken in 2018, the UNODC identified - jointly with the NCS - three projects in Windhoek, Gobabis and Walvis Bay. In Walvis Bay, the NCS already had a card-making project for inmates, so the UNODC rendered technical support and provided two laptops, a silhouette machine, two printers and other raw materials in February.

Additionally, the UNODC is helping to set up a soap manufacturing project at the Windhoek Correctional Facility.

Also in Namibia, the UNODC is helping the NCS to set up a hydroponics project to grow vegetables in Gobabis.

The Gobabis project is expected to produce vegetables that can be consumed by inmates to boost nutrition or they can be sold to the public.

*Moses Magadza is a communications officer for the UNODC regional office for southern Africa.

Moses Magadza

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