Inmates’ involvement in industrial economy


AT last, real reforms are coming to the Prisons Service. The recent signing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Prison Service with the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and PPF to revitalise some of the almost written off prison industries gives light to the emergence of dynamic industrial operations within the Prison Service.

It is said, Prison is the dirty linen of the government as such international organisation and NGOs would be the last to consider funding prisons operations; and indeed that has been the case for so long. Prisons have never enjoyed such grants or offers like their other counterparts in the criminal justice system!

Definitely, the government has several priorities and the public would not be ready to sacrifice hospital construction as opportunity cost for improving better prison conditions; it is commendable for our social security funds to have chipped in.

To start with Mbigiri Sugar Factory will be the beneficiary where about 30,000 metric tonnes of sugar would be produced together with about 400,000 tons of sugarcane! I believe other prison industries would later be considered following the recent advice by the Prime Minister Kassim Mjaliwa that Prisons should identify in each region where to put up a small industry or workshop to provide work for inmates.

The signing of this agreement was punctuated with high profile statements from the Commissioner–General of Prison Dr Juma Malewa, the NSSF Director General (DG) Prof Godius Kahyarara and PPF Director General William Urio.

As expected, Dr Malewa confirmed that the move was in the spirit of the fifth government’s quest of moving into industrial economy while Prof Kahyarara saw it as a special opportunity that is likely to enable Tanzania to become an industrial country.

So as the PPF Director-General Mr Urio had high hopes that the project would boost our country to attain that status of being an industrial country. They also encouraged the constellation villages around the project to become out-growers.What about inmates who constitute the bulk of workers? Will they be used as tools or robots to the project? Prisons have a lofty Vision of “aspiring to become an excellent professional correctional service observing international set norms and standards.”

This should be exhibited in these reforms. It is very important here to mention that inmates would be involved in the project and contribute to the economy of the country as opposed to their exclusion in socioeconomic activities. The idea of industrialising of our prisons is not a 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 inmates.

Therefore the approach in rehabilitation should also consider the social, political and economic factors which are responsible for crime commission. Poverty, lack of employment, substance abuse and educational opportunities are creating a horde of unemployed people and these are the very people to be addressed in our prisons.

Their only crime is just being poor! It is said that society is responsible for crime and the solution to crime rests in altering the social, political and economic situation of our society.

Our prison industrial projects should be viewed in that way and have to accept positive implications which include getting the right kind of inmates through rigorous assessment and classification by using validated instruments.

Our prison industries should be the hub of treatment programmes to inmates in relevance to their criminogenic needs leading to their gradual controlled releases.

We should further avoid unprofessional belief that hard work is a significant contributor to an inmate’s rehabilitation, allowing him or her to develop the habits necessary to successful reintegration.

In modern Corrections the focus on labour as a punishment has decreased in favour of greater attention being paid to vocational training and industry as rehabilitation.

The rise of the prison industry in the world is greatly influenced by the industrial prison complex prevalent in the developed countries like Canada with its prestigious Corcan Project. Corcan is a key rehabilitation programme characterised with transformational leadership associated with increased productivity in minimum, medium and maximum security prisons.

While the basic reason behind the creation of prison industry is to keep the inmates constructively occupied and provide rehabilitative skills, a mere tweak of the system can result in severe exploitation of the prisoners.

That is where there is a prohibition on international markets not to allow goods produced from forced prison labour! China and USA have a bilateral agreement not to allow goods into their borders though USA seems to have a two-faced policy on this as there is evidence that it exports goods manufactured by prisoners.

More than 1.7m inmates in USA have been used as prison labour and paid between 23cents to 1.15 dollars per hour. Another positive implication in production could be the availability of the steady reliable workforce which should be consistent in production.

The conditional releases such as parole amnesties, remissions, and community service orders if not professionally done could frustrate the production. This is where we need to have our new Correctional Policy with such ingredients internalised and probably buy a leaf from the Canadian Corcan; the way they run their parole and other conditional releases.

If rehabilitation of offenders is the central theme of the correctional industry, then payment of reasonable incentives to inmates becomes an absolute necessity as preparatory stage of release programme for reintegration.

If we may not consider the wellbeing of the inmates who are the bulk of workers, then our prisons would not only be vulnerable to accusations from human rights organisations condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation where prisoners are working for various industries for a pittance but also sabotage from unruly criminals working in these industries.

Reforms should strongly be anchored on the Vision, Mission Statement and core values.

Good luck

  • Dr Malewa with your team! m g o s i w a s u i 8 7 @ g m a i l . c o m +255754342711 Senior Citizen, Board Member National Parole Board and Prisons Penal Reform International (PRI).
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