The Raoul Wallenberg Institute and Kenyan Prison Service (KPS) were awarded the International Corrections and Prison Association’s Correctional Excellence Award in the category of Management and Staff Training on Wednesday in Bucharest.
We caught up with RWI’s director of the office in Nairobi, Josh Ounsted, to ask a few questions about it.
What was the rationale for the award?
In handing out the award, ICPA recognised the close bond of trust between a prisons service and a human rights organisation – institutions that are more usually at loggerheads. They noted that this was a partnership based on action rather than words, and that there are literally hundreds of examples now where Kenyan officers trained under the programme have gone on to make concrete improvements in compliance with the Mandela Rules, despite having very limited resources at their disposal. The theme of this year’s ICPA conference is “Correctional Leadership: Engaging Hearts and Minds” and the cooperation between RWI and KPS is all about engaging current and future leaders in the Service towards a common goal of a correctional system that genuinely respects human rights.
What was your reaction?
We were, of course, delighted that the partnership has received this important international recognition. The ICPA conference is the global gathering of corrections professionals, I think there are around 450 delegates from some 75 different countries represented here, and to be able to stand up as RWI and receive the acknowledgement of all those people meant a great deal. It really helps demonstrate that there is no difference between human rights and good corrections.
Why is it important?
In the first place, we hope that it’s a great encouragement to all the Human Rights Officers, Officers in Charge and other Kenya Prisons staff who have been working so hard to increase compliance with the Mandela Rules. But beyond that, we hope that it might inspire other countries to adopt a human rights based approach to corrections and embrace these international standards as a set of tools for good prison management. Ever since receiving the award, as well as making a presentation on the partnership to the conference, we’ve had corrections people from all over the world coming up to us, keen to know more and even inviting us to come to their countries and see what can be done. We can’t wait!