RWI has initiated a unique cooperation – the “Assessment and Classification Project” with the Kenya Prison Service (KPS), the Kenya Probation and Aftercare Services (KPAS) and Swedish Prisons and Probation Services (SPPS). We asked a few questions to Damaris Seina, RWI programme officer in Kenya, to find out more about the project.
What is it?
“In 2014, the Kenya Prisons Service in cooperation with RWI conducted a research project on classification of prisoners in Kenya, with funding from Swedish Development Cooperation. The research team of four KPS officers trained by RWI interviewed some 700 prisoners in 16 different prisons across the country to try and gain a comprehensive picture of the current situation of assessment and classification, which is a critical component of the international human rights standards concerning corrections.
“This partnership brings a range of different expertise on board to develop a new trial project that is being piloted in five prisons and related probation offices in the Nairobi region. The partnership aims to develop assessment tools, systems and documentation processes that will enable KPS and KPAS officers, trained and working together as necessary, to assess, classify and plan offenders’ sentences, following the principle that offenders should be held at the lowest security level under necessary supervision.
Why is it important?
“Having an evidence-based system of assessment and classification determined by risk and needs is central to the international human rights standards for corrections, in particular the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the “Mandela Rules”.
“The project therefore hopes to ensure that offenders, who by reason of their history, background and circumstances of the offence etc., do not pose a danger to themselves, others, or to society, can instead serve their sentences under necessary supervision in the community. In addition, the project hopes to ensure that prisoners assessed as low risk are held at low security prisons and vice versa for high security prisoners, with emphasis on sentence planning and regular review.
How can this improve human rights for people on the ground?
“When offenders are assessed according to their risk and needs, it increases the chances that they will not enter the custodial system, with all the impact on their human rights that entails. For those who do, classification based on such assessment means that they can be treated with only the restrictions that are necessary, and that the correctional services will be able to work with them to increase the chance that they will reintegrate successfully back into the community.
“Assessment and classification also enables good decisions to be made about the treatment of an individual in custody, with a profound impact on all areas of the international human rights standards, affecting everything from placement, security and programming to contact with the outside world, social relations and aftercare.
“Implementation of such a system significantly improves respect for the rights of not just offenders, but also their families, the broader society and those who are charged with managing them. And eventually, coupled with an effective system of parole and conditional release, it might also be the cure for the chronic overcrowding experienced by many prison systems.”