The Government will work closely with families in an effort to seamlessly integrate former juvenile inmates back into their societies and homes.
The pledge was made by Justice Minister Johnston Busingye last week as he visited Nyagatare Juvenile Prison in the Eastern Province.
Busingye, who also doubles as the Attorney General, said that it would be a failure on all parties if recidivism among juveniles persisted.
The Minister was accompanied by the outgoing Swedish Ambassador to Rwanda, Jenny Ohlson, as they officially inaugurated two Smart Classrooms of the prison.
Besides correctional services, the prison—which currently has a combined 456 young male and female inmates—provides formal education (from Primary 1 to Senior 3 as well as vocational training) to the inmates.
This is part of the measures aimed at ensuring that the inmates are easily integrated back into society after serving their prison sentences.
However, not all of them have been able to continue with their studies or live a crime-free life after being discharged from the facility.
George Rwigamba, the Commissioner-General of Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS) disclosed that most of the children who passed national exams and received presidential pardon were able to continue with their studies.
“However, majority of those are the ones who are looked after by their parents or have guardians who help them continue with their education,” he explained.
When they follow up, he explained, they find that there are others who, on their return, encountered the same problems in their families like the ones before they went to prison
“This makes them drop out of school and a few of them return into criminal life, ending up in prison again.”
Local leaders should be encouraged to receive the children and to reintegrate them into their families, he appealed.
Betty Uwitije, one of the prisoners, said that some former inmates are released only to find similar challenges they had left in their societies.
There is also a challenge of the families that easily lose hope their children and hence don’t visit them while they are in prison.
Uwitije says that when such children are released from prison they go to streets where they are exposed to criminal activities.
After inaugurating the prison’s two Smart Classrooms with 110 computers, Minister Busingye said Government was going to assess the problems and address them.
“When we look after a person, we look after them fully; we do not just look after a person living in this place, or the one in a classroom,” he said.
“We will partner with other institutions, we will then go to the family [of the inmate to be released], prepare them, talk to them, bring them here and have discussions with you (inmate child), and build something with you, such that when you come out, you will be with us and we will not lose you again.
“When we do that, I think that many of you, those questions you ask yourself, ‘where will I go when I am released?’ will be answered,” he explained.
The minister asked the RCS officials and prison leaders to report early all problems an inmate has ahead of their release so they partner to find help for them.
“We will do our best,” he emphasised, adding “No child should come out of this place rehabilitated and then become disobedient again. That would be a failure for us, and all of our efforts would be in vain,” he reiterated.
Busingye’s visit to Nyagatare prison followed the one he had made in Ngoma Female Prison a day before.