RWI advisors are currently undertaking a human rights training needs assessment with prisons and probation services in the East Africa Community (EAC) member states of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The assessment, which is organised by the Institute’s office in Nairobi in cooperation with the EAC Department of Peace and Security, aims to evaluate current corrections training programmes for compliance with human rights standards, and recommend regional strategies for future capacity development.
The assessment team, consisting of experienced corrections officers Dru Allen, Jeff Christian, Terry Sawatsky and Nancy Wrenshall, are very familiar with the approaches needed to engage positively with the services in the region when it comes to human rights. Jeff, a former prison and parole director who has worked with the Institute in countries including Kenya, Indonesia and Cambodia, explains that the study is not intended to criticise the performance of the services when it comes to human rights and training, but to come up with practical and realistic solutions at a regional level.
“The most valuable resource of any correctional service is always its staff,” he says. “By focusing on good quality training for personnel, which doesn’t have to be expensive, the services can make great strides in improving respect for the human rights of offenders – as well as those of the staff themselves. This assessment should help the EAC countries find new ways to support each other in that process.”
The project has been one of the tougher assignments that the team has faced, including fieldwork in some very difficult environments. Thanks, however, to the longstanding relationship between RWI and the EAC, both in correctional services and other areas, the advisors have received warm welcomes and close support throughout the member states.
“Of course these are places that face a lot of challenges, and as with most countries round the world, corrections are rarely seen as a priority when it comes to resources, but we’ve already seen some great practices when it comes to human rights training,” says Jeff. “We’ve seen training centres that are both teaching and following the Mandela Rules and other international human rights standards for corrections, despite those challenges. We’re now looking forward to presenting the findings to the chiefs of the correctional services and heads of training from around the region, and discussing how we can help each other move forwards.”