This week, we are featuring a guest blogger from the Kenya Prisons Service (KPS).
Dennis Mungo is an officer of the KPS who currently serves as coordinator of the Human Rights Office at KPS Headquarters. He is closely involved with the longstanding cooperation between KPS and RWI.
He will be blogging from the annual conference of the International Corrections and Prisons Association in Bucharest, which RWI is attending together with KPS to exchange experiences on practical implementation of the Mandela Rules and other human rights standards for corrections.
“You can tell that the beehive kind of a buzz has eased down as people get into the details of the many different aspects of corrections, from the impact of modern technology to human rights and the principle of normalcy.
“Being a tech enthusiast, it was really interesting to hear its impact on corrections in the more advanced countries – we are truly worlds apart, as some systems are talking about virtual reality, drones, robots, GoPro videos and maybe even holograms! Truly with some imagination and spirit, there is no limit to what technology can do…but investing in tech can be a Catch-22. It is one thing to create new levels of efficiency and effectiveness but on the other hand, it can pose some human rights concerns.
“For instance, use of such technology could not only undermine dynamic security (which is all about staff interaction with prisoners) but also eliminate the humane connection that comes about from such relations. That being said, it is indeed true that investing in appropriate technology can be a useful tool in making prison environments safer for both staff and inmates. This is an area that Kenya Prisons could learn from, perhaps through careful partnership with the private sector.”
“The outstanding thing from today, however, has to be the presentation I attended about the principle of normalcy, which for those of us working with the Mandela Rules, means that prison conditions should resemble those of the outside community as closely as possible. We got to hear from various European case studies of how this principle is affecting not only the design of prisons but also approaches to programming, security, work etc. There is a genuine desire by some correctional services to foster “healthy prisons” by making them as friendly and comfortable as possible and creating an environment that promotes trust, respect, socialization and positive relationships amongst staff and prisoners. This can be controversial and liable to criticism from the media and certain politicians that by doing so, it is making prisons “too comfortable” for prisoners (as is always brought up in Kenya).
“However research has shown that prisoners held in such “comfortable” prisons refer to them as being humane… but still prisons at the end of the day. This brings to mind another key Mandela Rules principle: you are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment.”
“At the end of the day, it came out as important to take into account the culture and context of the prison in relation to the outside community, and try to make prison life commensurate with these realities. In many small ways, we can make prisons a better place for those who have to spend time there, and this close resemblance to the community is integral to their rehabilitation and reintegration.
“Thoughtful stuff, huh? And it is just day two…”
Dennis Mungo is an officer of the Kenya Prisons Service (KPS) who currently serves as coordinator of the Human Rights Office at KPS Headquarters, and is closely involved with the longstanding cooperation between KPS and RWI. This week he is blogging from the annual conference of the International Corrections and Prisons Association in Bucharest, which RWI is attending together with KPS to exchange experiences on practical implementation of the Mandela Rules and other human rights standards for corrections.