War on drugs in Prisons


THE war on drugs in the country continues unabated and hopefully the country will emerge victorious.

The more the war becomes intense; the drug users get on being nabbed and obviously end up either in the sober houses or incarcerated in our prisons.

Definitely the NGOs would flock up to deal with those in the sober houses while our prisons will continue to be overcrowded. Many countries with this experience have shortened prison time for drug crimes with well researched advisories new guidelines that are intended to address substance abuse to the already addicted inmates.

In a way, this inspires largely the need to relieve pressure on our prison system, which is straining to cope with the increased prison population. But it’s also recognition that we can’t incarcerate ourselves out of our drug problems. This is considered as the best prison practice and should also be focused with improving conditions in prison.

In the long run, it will have the possibility to reduce our inmate population. Inmates in prisons are likely to find a drug trade as active as the one outside prison walls since inmates with addictions are as well surrounded by similarly troubled souls.

Last month Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa explained that in seven month’s investigation by authorities over illegal drug pushers and users across the country resulted in over 10,000 arrests and the seizure of millions of shillings worth of drugs.

In that shocking revelation which the Prime Minister made when addressing the Cabinet meeting in Dodoma, he said at least 11,503 suspects were arrested between July 2016 and January this year. A total of 9, 811 were suspects.

According to the premiere, a total 974 suspects have pending cases in courts of law and 238 have been acquitted. The Police in collaboration with the Drug Control and Enforcement Commission are also investigating cases of 478 who were arrested during the crackdown.

The Prime Minister emphasized that three quarters of these suspects have incriminating evidence likely to be convicted. The problem of drug use and prison overcrowding needs to be debated and the ensuing negative ramifications on inmate population, institutional security as well as public safety, seem to be hard to mitigate.

It appears that in several institutions of custody and in many respects interlinked in the way affecting inmate lives, institutional security and public safety have not received appropriate timely attention, especially in the area of creating intervention programmes necessary for proactive redress of the problem.

It is against the backdrop of such heightened concern on the problem of drug control and prison overcrowding; coupled with ensuing propensity on the part of inmate populations to demonstrate confrontational approaches as a way of agitating for their rights, that we find it imperative to continuously advise both government as well as the community stakeholders to undertake deliberate steps aimed at mitigating the problem in a permanent manner.

While it’s tempting to think punishment is the answer, prison alone doesn’t teach addicts how to change their thinking and behavior, doesn’t help repair damaged neural pathways and doesn’t take away drug cravings or offer strategies to prevent relapse.

In most cases, prison just buys a little time before the addict relapses and reoffends, perpetuating the cycle and hurting himself along with the rest of us. It is time now the Ministry of Home Affairs and Health Development Gender and Children to jointly work together in providing pharmacological maintenance programmes, that include the long-term administration of a medication that either replaces the illicit drug or blocks its actions.

These pharmacological applications include methadone maintenance, and other long-acting maintenance procedures. Inmates should be made to undergo drug rehab treatment programs, which include a range of services, from professional psychotherapies to peer discussions. Counseling services to include individual, group, or family counseling; peer group support, vocational therapy, and cognitive therapy.

There is urgent need of introducing therapeutic treatment programmes in prisons and also need to have multidisciplinary staff to deal with such offenders who require special accredited treatment programmes. The government should tackle this problem wholesomely and not in peace meals by equipping Prisons with the necessary tools to address this problem.

Research published in the 1990’s by psychologist Dr. Harry K Wexler, a leader in prison reform, found that prison-based substance abuse is effective – if combined with aftercare – and leads to major reductions in recidivism. A perception has endured over time that “nothing works” in prison rehabilitation.

Yet, research by psychologists and others shows that treating prisoners’ substance abuse problems during and after incarceration can lead to major reductions in recidivism By collaborating to address the problem of drug control and prison overcrowding in a proactive way both the government actors as well as community stakeholders shall be contributing substantially in the sustainable development of secure, humane and rehabilitation oriented institutions of custody critical for safer public communities.

We must decide to act now because what has been witnessed in the past is the impact of remand prisoner’s strikes in 2007 in terms of its capacity to disrupt the normal conduct of court schedules and hence impede timely delivery of judicial services to the public community.

Currently, Prisons in many countries have adopted Risk Management Correctional Strategy and do have various tools for treatment programmes that address such criminogenic needs.

Criminogenic needs are factors that predispose an offender to commit a crime and if correctly identified may lead to an effective intervention by applying accredited programmes that can address the reoffending attitude.

It is a prerequisite to have an effective rehabilitation and parole system that can monitor and support the released offender on parole through gradual controlled release.

The introduction of unit management in prisons with the therapeutic community model of prison substance abuse treatment and aftercare may go a long way in managing the emerging of prison gangs that may escalate the sophistry in commission of crimes.

  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. +255754342711 Senior Citizen, Board Member National Parole Board, Penal Reform International
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