On Solutions Rather Than Criticism

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RWI and KPS make their joint presentation: “Human Rights and Good Corrections: Partnering to realise the Mandela Rules in Kenya”

“The 2016 ICPA conference finally came to an end, and it has been one to reckon with for sure. The organisers had clearly decided to save the best for the last, as KPS and RWI made a plenary presentation on the final day entitled: “Human Rights and Good Corrections: Partnering to Realise the Mandela Rules in Kenya”.

“My boss, Mr. Benjamin Njoga, was on stage with Josh for a co-presentation that showcased the close partnership between the Service and the Institute, and some of the concrete improvements in human rights that have been achieved as a result. We acknowledged that KPS had a pretty antagonistic history with human rights organisations, who tended to offer criticism but not solutions, and showed how the different approach that had been taken with RWI had won the confidence of our officers – many of whom now see themselves as not just prisons people but human rights people. Having just won the ICPA Correctional Excellence award the previous evening, it was great to be able to explain more about the partnership to corrections professionals from around the world, and there seems to be a great deal of interest in adopting similar approaches elsewhere.”

“We also were glad to share the stage with another friend of Kenya Prisons from the Mr. Alexander McLean, who showcased the work being done by his organisation to bring dignity and hope to prisoners in Uganda and Kenya through various interventions including legal education.

“The conference then drew to an end, with the final highlight being the closing session by a panel of “eminent correctional practitioners” to talk about what matters when it comes to leadership in corrections. Some take home stuff from this conference for all of you reading this:

  1. Leaders need to create a “culture of appreciation”. Everyone needs to feel important and appreciated. Treating people right can create a ripple effect across the whole organisation.
  2. Greater need for African prison and correctional services to showcase and share their successes and challenges, and the various innovative solutions that have been found to human rights issues facing African prisons. One outstanding feedback from the participants was that money is not always the solution to the problems of prisons and correctional services in developing countries. A little bit of creativity, partnership and transformational leadership are some of the key components to a better service.
  3. A big part of correctional leadership is about educating policymakers about who goes to prison, why they go to prison, how long they should go to prison and so on, which means lots of outreach including through the media. In short, it calls for going above and beyond the day-to-day expectations of the job.
  4. Correctional leadership requires a human dimension; more than might be called for in other professions due to the amount of authority they have over individuals. Ultimately, they should have an ability to be dreamers – The dream to show staff, media, community, politicians, government that you want a better organisation with the realisation that IF NOTHING CHANGES… NOTHING CHANGES!

“The curtains came down with an invitation from the organisers of the 2017 ICPA meeting, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) from the UK, inviting the participants to next year’s conference in London under the theme “Innovation in Rehabilitation – Building Better Futures”.

“The Romanian tour couldn’t come to a conclusion without a visit to one of their prisons. Two visits were organised where participants had a choice of visiting either a high or low security prison, and I was fortunate enough to join the high security group, travelling to Rahova Prison where we got to learn more about the Romanian Penitentiary System.

“One thought from this conference, however, that has played on my mind for a while now is the need for ICPA and its members to engage with not just current but also future leaders. Being undoubtedly one of the youngest prison officers attending the conference, I felt there was a need to have greater representation from the Commissioners General of tomorrow so that they can have an opportunity to interact, share and learn from the wealth of knowledge and experience in corrections that was displayed at this conference. Developing a mentorship program would be a good start, where experienced and willing correctional practitioners could be able to connect with young professionals online or face-to-face and provide some much-needed advice and encouragement: driving that millennial energy to transform their respective organisations.

“And at the end of the day, and as the Mandela Rules say, we need to constantly seek to awaken and maintain in the minds of both the personnel and of the public the conviction that this work is a social service of great importance.”

“Time to go home now, back from the Bucharest chill to some sunny Nairobi weather! Thank you all so much for sharing this space with me.”

Read yesterday’s blog post here

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.

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