Zambia and Kyrgyzstan join forces with UNODC to promote public safety through supporting prison-based rehabilitation programmes

As the guardian of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules), UNODC has a long history of providing technical assistance and advisory services to the Member States in the field of prison reform. Its Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, therefore, includes a dedicated component on strengthening the rehabilitation of prisoners, including their social reintegration upon release.

The Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) is amongst the national prison administrations that will receive technical support from UNODC to enhance the range and quality of rehabilitation programmes it offers to prisoners under its care.

Following detailed consultations, on-site visits and market research, UNODC and ZCS signed a corresponding business plan in October, which details UNODC’s upcoming support to enhance infrastructure in Mwembeshi Maximum Prison and procure required equipment. The plan specifies, in particular, support for the construction of a multi-purpose vocational training facility and the initiation of a cooking oil production line.

During the signing ceremony, the Commissioner General of ZCS, Mr Percy Kangwa Chato, reaffirmed that “investing in prisoners’ reformation is critical to good prison management” and expressed his gratitude for UNODC’s unwavering support over the years to increase the Zambian Correctional Service’s compliance with the Nelson Mandela Rules.

In Kyrgyzstan, progress is also well underway to support the implementation of a more rehabilitative approach to prison management. Out of the 16, 000 prisoners in the country, only 1,600 prisoners are currently involved in constructive activities. With a view to change this situation, the General Directorate of Penitentiary Institutions and UNODC signed an action plan last week to further guide UNODC’s support for the initiation of bakery, show-making and sewing production and corresponding income-generating activities for both male and female prisoners in two facilities.

“Effective social reintegration programmes are urgently required since they are essential means of preventing recidivism and increasing public safety”, said Talaibek Zhaparov, Chairperson of the State Penal Service of Kyrgyzstan. “Incarcerated offenders face some very real challenges at the time of their release, and communities become unsafe when offenders with high risk and needs are released without adequate preparation, supervision or support”, commented Vera Tkachenko, UNODC’s International Programme Manager in Bishkek.

In addition to Kyrgyzstan and Zambia, UNODC is actively exploring similar support in a range of additional countries on all continents. A core message of the component of prisoner rehabilitation under the Global Programme for the implementation of the Doha Declaration is that imprisonment, in itself, is incapable of addressing offenders’ social integration issues. Rather, the time of imprisonment should be used to ensure – as much as possible – that prisoners are both willing and able to lead law-abiding lives upon release.

Source: United Nations office on Drugs and Crime