Prisons and industrialisation policy

AT first I thought it was a cry in the wilderness when in this column, I used to write on the potentialities of the Prisons Service becoming one of the production entities of this country, if only certain conditions could be met.

I was upbeat recently when Prime Minister Majaliwa Kassim Majaliwa visited the Kwintanga Prison in Kigoma, the famous palm tree growing prison. He wanted this prison to be the hub of palm tree growing in this area and impart that knowledge to the constellation villagers for mass production of palm oil.

The Premier promised to provide the necessary working tools to that prison so as to carry out those directives. As reciprocation to those directives, the officer in charge of that prison demanded more prisoners for work as currently there are only 112 prisoners while for that kind of work, 300 prisoners are required daily.

The government is committed to its industrialization focus, no doubt the financial assistance is assured and the ball should be to the prisoner’s management to deliver.

However the question of labour force may be assumed to be a non-issue while prisons are overcrowded to the tune of over 30,000 inmates and why should the officer in charge be asking for a paltry 300 prisoners?

Lest he be misunderstood that he was asking for more convictions into prisons, he actually meant was that the available labour force of inmates is raw and needs to be clinically assessed in terms of their criminogenic factors.

It should be remembered that this labour force is made up of criminals required to be rehabilitated. And that is where the acumen of rehabilitation through offender risk management correctional strategies is required.

This request is a reminder to the government on the stalled Correctional Policy that spell out the strategies of managing prisons in terms of risk management and not as haphazardly as it is now.

In this new proposed Correctional Policy; it is envisaged to attain success factors that include the reduction of recidivism, addressing overcrowding and ending the enforced idleness of inmates.

The bottom line should be managing the prisons in a cost effective manner with its contribution to the public safety! Of course it is a process and as agro-industrial activities are considered to be the vehicles for rehabilitation and social reintegration, capacity building towards the Prisons Reforms is a necessity.

The government should as well invest in this. I am becoming unduly optimistic that Prisons Service is now poised to revert to its former productive stance. My optimism is based on the fact that the first winery or wine producing factory in this country was owned by Prison Service in Dodoma in the sixties.

Way back in 1968 after vineyard growing was well established at the Isanga Prison in Dodoma after buying a leaf from the Bihawana Missionaries, the construction of a wine producing industry in Dodoma was a necessity; today being the pride of this country as one of the wine producing countries in the world.

Anyway, at that time, it did not auger well for prisoners to handle the wine factory and hence that was a good reason to hand it over to the then National Milling Corporation But that was not all, apart from the usual common workshops in the prisons such as carpentry, foundry, soap making, sisal carpets, quarrying and tailoring; they also tried sugar production at Wami with the guidance of the Indian backyard industries experience.

They used to produce sugar, molasses and other by-products for internal use. Karanga Prison Shoes Industry is yet another factory that made its name during the Idi Amin aggression war where it was tasked to provide boots for soldiers who took part in that war.

The workshop was forced to work into two shifts, day and night. Prisons have entered into agreements on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis in sugar production at Wami in Morogoro and the one of shoe manufacturing at Karanga in Moshi.

The emerging overseas thinking on PPP with Prisons is focussed on the policy, objectives and outcomes, leaving the service delivery to contracted competitive providers PPP. Although it is primarily in the form of contract labour system where the State undertakes the responsibility to house, feed, clothe and guard the prisoners serving as the principal workforce for the contractors who only provide capital and technology.

The rise of the prison industry in the world is greatly influenced by the industrial prison complex prevalent in the United States of America and other developed countries. Canadian Correctional Service has a prestigious industrial wing known as Corcan Project.

More than 1.7m inmates in USA have been used as prison labour and are paid between 23 cents and 1.15 dollars per hour. The basic reason behind the creation of prison industry is to keep the inmates constructively occupied and provide rehabilitative skills.

If rehabilitation of offenders is the central theme of the correctional industry, then payment incentives is an absolute necessity in preparation for their lives after imprisonment! If we may not consider the wellbeing of inmates who form the bulk of the workforce, then our prisons would not only be vulnerable to accusation from human rights organization condemning what they call a new form of humane exploitation.

The idea of industrialization of our prisons is not new one but was not feasible due to lack of capital and well defined rehabilitation and reintegration policies. Rehabilitation and reintegration is aimed at addressing the reoffending attitude of offender.

Therefore the approach in rehabilitation should also consider the social, political and economic factors which are responsible for crime commission.

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