The proposed provision by the Government of Rwanda to offer university education to convicts incarcerated in correctional facilities in the country will make them more productive and help tackle reoffending, experts in education and human rights have argued. This proposal is contained in a draft law on correctional services whose relevance was approved by the Chamber of Deputies last year on October 8. Now, it is under scrutiny by a responsible parliamentary committee before being put to a vote by a plenary sitting. According to the Ministry of Justice, the bill is part of the efforts to review the country’s correctional system by integrating education in the convicts rehabilitation The draft law provides that the institution in charge of correctional services establishes a programme to empower convicts with appropriate skills and knowledge for self-sustainability and help them to become law-abiding citizens. According to the bill, the institution in charge of correctional services establishes an educational programme in reference to the government programme for the education of incarcerated persons at primary, secondary and university level (for general education) and technical and vocational education training (TVET). Benson Rukabu, National Coordinator at Rwanda Education for All Coalition (REFAC) – a local civil society organisation advocating for quality education for all citizens – told The New Times that convicts should have right to education and having intellectuals is wealth for the country. He noted that correctional facilities should have the required tools to provide university education effectively, pointing out that the implementation of this programme will require adequate budget. He said that the move could help convicts get knowledge, which may in turn contribute to the development of the country and becoming law-abiding citizens as they will also get behavioural change as the level of education matters in one’s understanding of correction service. “Lack of knowledge is a major concern to the community. There was a problem where convicts could spend a long time in prison,” he said, pointing out that some convicts dropped out of school but could not pursue their university education at correctional facilities because the current situation was not allowing it. Ensuring successful reintegration François Ngabo, a PhD student in comparative education said that convicts can get knowledge and skills at university level during their term in prison, and be able to join efforts with other members of the community to contribute to the country’s development once reintegrated. “This can be a major development to have university education in correctional facilities,” he said. Referring to examples from the USA, he said that offering higher education in prison makes convicts see many opportunity doors being open for them such that they can be able to have an occupation that can put them off committing crimes again. “That can make them fear prison because they have realised there are profitable things they can do,” he said, adding that gaining skills could enhance entrepreneurship among convicts and their chance to get employment. According to a Brief titled “Higher Education Behind Bars; Expanding Post-Secondary Educational Programs in New England [of USA] Prisons and Jails”, federally, those without a high school education recidivated (reoffended) at a rate of 60 percent, whereas formerly incarcerated people with some college experience recidivated at a much lower rate of 19.1 percent. The Brief was prepared by Sheridan Miller, State Policy Engagement Coordinator at New England Board of Higher Education. Meanwhile, Ngabo said “there should be adequate specifications for the scholars who will be teaching in correctional facilities once the bill is voted into law so that we are sure that the convicts are taught productive courses,” he said, suggesting that the courses should factor in the special needs of convicts for better results. Prof. Eugène Rutembesa, Chairperson of the Board at Dignity in Detention (DIDE Rwanda) said that providing university-level studies to convicts at correctional facilities can help ensure their successful reintegration in their communities. “This is a laudable move. A person is imprisoned because of a crime, but does not mean he/she is not a human being. And, they will be eventually reintegrated into the community. If they get the rights to education when they are in prison, that is something worth appreciation,” he said. This can reduce stress and many problems convicts have because they feel like they are dignified. Nothing can be as important [to the convicts] as the Government thinking of them as people who are also entitled to benefits like those offered to other citizens in the community,” he said. According to a 2020/2021 report by the National Commission for Human Rights, the number of inmates in Rwanda’s 14 correctional facilities continued an increasing trend over the last four years as it went up from 58,230 in 2017 to 76,099 in 2021, representing an increase of 30.6 percent. Also, the report revealed that congestion in correction facilities remained high as average – at 124.1 percent. While explaining the relevance of the above-mentioned bill to lawmakers October 8, 2021 Amb. Solina Nyirahabimana, the Minister of State in Charge of Constitutional and Legal Affairs in the Ministry of Justice said the development aims to make inmates more productive. She pointed out that 50 per cent of the convicts in the country are less than 40 years old, meaning that they are expected to be released after completing their terms. “This is in line with the new penalty policy. Punishment is a principle, but, it matters how we punish them [convicts] so that when they are released [upon completion of their sentences], they would not relapse into crimes, or become harmful to the communities into which they have been integrated,” she observed, underscoring the need for restorative approach to justice.