Inmates push for access to higher learning

Minister Johnston Busingye delivering his remarks at Nyarugenge Prison
Minister Johnston Busingye delivering his remarks at Nyarugenge Prison/ Courtesy

Inmates at Nyarugenge prison, commonly known as Mageragere, have requested that they are facilitated to further their studies in universities and other tertiary insitutions to be able to have a better chance at life, once they have been released after serving their sentences. 

They made the request on Thursday during their interaction with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye when he visited the facility.

“We thank the government for the initiative of introducing vocational training but we would also like to request that we are able to pursue and attain bachelor's degrees and other higher learning qualifications,” said Gaspard Byukusenge, a convict who spoke on behalf of other inmates.

Busingye's visit was aimed at discussing with the inmates on the state of their welfare and all they need to make them better people once they are released into their communities after they have served their respective sentences.

The minister said he had taken note of the concern and promised to sit with Rwanda Correctional Service ( RCS) and look for an appropriate university to propose offering those services.

Courtesy of the vocational training offered at Rwandan prisons, several inmates have attained valuable skills and this is also helped the production departments of the different prisons, supplementing the incomes of these facilities.

Busingye said that it was a justified request. "and we shall see whether it could be done online or a lecture to be coming here."

“You are here because you broke the law. Jail time is a journey and the government of Rwanda wants you to leave here, as new different people.”

Of recent, the government introduced vocational trainings with nationwide recognized certificates from Workforce Development Authority (WDA) upon completion for the inmates to be able to find or create jobs once they set foot out of prison.

However, as many decried, “the certificates aren't availed in time.”

Inmates’ stories to educate society

Nyarugenge Prison inmates' leaders discussing with Justice Minister about their welfare

Nyarugenge Prison inmates' representatives discussing with Justice Minister about their welfare/ Courtesy 

Apart from higher learning, Diane Umuhire, one of the inmates' leaders, suggested that having committed crimes, they are in a better position to teach society about the consequences of criminality.

"We are volunteering to teach Rwandans about demerits of drugs, for some still have zero to no idea of how heavy the punishments are for those found culpable," she said.

She added genocide convicts could participate in recounting to the younger generations what really happened, an idea which was also shared by many other inmates including those convicted for Genocide.

Umuhire believes that the version she got from the convicts, very few people out there are yet to get the full grasp of how systematic the preparation of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi was.

“Most of us, especially the youth learned about what really happened when we got here (in prison),” she pointed out.

About the prison

Nyarugenge prison located in Mageragere sector, kavumu cell, Mubura village. It has capacity to accommodate up to 10 000 prisoners. It was built to replace the former prison in dowtown Kigali which was infamously called 1930.

Currently, it has 9,947 inmates of whom 1,819 are women. Out of these, 6810 are already convicted and serving varying sentences while 3,137 are on remand.

Those Imprisoned for genocide cases are 1,208 men and 1949 women. The facility also has a nursery for children who were brought or born of convicted mothers.

For cooking, Nyarugenge prison uses briquettes and biogas which is the case for all but two prison facilities in Rwanda, something about which Busingye said he was jubilant.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com 

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