“Who Said Corrections is Boring?”

mandela rules kenya
Commisioner and staff at Kenya Prison Service from the ICPA in Bucharest

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.

“I’m here for the first time at the annual International Corrections and Prison Association (ICPA) 18th annual conference, together with Josh and Damaris from RWI, my boss Benjamin Njoga, the Deputy Commissioner General of Kenyan Prisons, and Margaret Mwaniki, the Nairobi County Director for the Kenyan Probation and Aftercare Service, who’s also an important part of our human rights cooperation programme in Kenya.

“Day one, and anyone who might think that prisons and probation people getting together to discuss matters of corrections would be boring…might be in for a surprise!

“Just to rewind for a second: it was just last year during our annual review and planning meeting with RWI that this all came up. In the midst of the planning session, I threw in the possibility of having KPS and RWI join in the next ICPA conference with the aim of sharing our gains, challenges and strategies entrenching the Mandela Rules (the new UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners) into our modus operandi – into our lifeline!”

ICPA is the main international association for corrections professionals like ourselves. Part of our strategy in this phase of our cooperation is to increase national and international exchanges, and so everyone was pretty excited by this idea.

“Back to Bucharest, cold as it may be but this has not dampened any excitement. Seventy-five countries represented, over 450 delegates, all abuzz with old friends catching up, Commissioner Generals, Director Generals, Heads of Offices, Justice Ministers. Suffice to say, we are not short of titles!  Just for a moment I stand and feel the moment: it’s like I am walking among giants, and this is such a humbling and proud moment indeed.

“Highlights for me so far have included the opening presentation by Phil Wheatley from the UK, who very frankly explained the kind of problems their prisons are facing. These include funding cuts, which sounded very familiar, and he urged us to be realistic in our expectations about what corrections can achieve.

“He also said it was really important that we do more to explain, even to our own governments, what we actually do and how we contribute to society.”

ICRC also had a great session where they called upon different African prisons’ leaders to share successes and challenges, concluding with an agreement that we in Africa can probably learn more from each other than from places like Europe or the US.  It was particularly interesting to hear from the Commissioner of Namibian Prisons – we’ve already been inspired by Namibian approaches including borrowing from their prisons law – and I was delighted to meet with him afterwards and discuss a visit to share our experiences with rights-based prison reform.

“Ending the day with some traditional hospitality from our Romanian hosts, who said corrections is boring?!”

dennis_bioDennis 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.