While prison is everyone’s last wish in life, it becomes even worse after serving your sentence and the community around you maintains a suspicious attitude toward you.
Tumaini, a local not-for-profit organisation, has started an initiative to help reintegrate ex-inmates back into society.
“Today, most ex-prisoners continue facing various socio-economic and psychological challenges. They are discriminated in their families and communities, and most of them face stigma. No one cares about them. What we believe in is that we can help address the psycho-social needs of these people through counseling while their economic needs can be met through government programmes,” said Isidore Gahamanyi, the chairman of the organisation.
Gahamanyi was speaking during a one-day workshop on Wednesday in Nyarutarama, Kigali.
The workshop deliberated on ways through which to strengthen advocacy for reintegration of ex-prisoners.
Gahamanyi said that the organisation has identified the most vulnerable ex-inmates, documented and given them health insurance on top of facilitating them to carry out pigs and goats rearing, among others.
“The reality is that most of these people are energetic and have skills, but the challenge is that no one believes in them. What we are saying is that how can we facilitate them socially, economically and psychologically. We have already identified some of the most disadvantaged people and started supporting them,” explained Gahamanyi.
Statistics show that only 15 per cent of inmates are visited by their relatives for the whole period of incarceration. This, according to Gahamanyi, psychologically affects the inmates and that adapting to the outside environment becomes quite challenging once they are out of jail.
Every year, between 800- 1,000 prisoners complete their sentences and are released from various correctional centres. Many learn vocational skills while in correctional centres.
“We want to take advantage of the skills and knowledge they have to support them to develop themselves. Today, we have about 1,500 beneficiaries from the four districts we work with but we are targeting more than 4,500 people,” he explained.
These beneficiaries are from Rwamagana, Huye, Kicukiro and Kayonza districts, and have formed small cooperatives.
Valerie Ndererimana, one of the ex-inmates, said that society doesn’t treat them like other people, but with the support of such organisations, their lives are slowly transforming.
“I was convicted of genocide ideology and served my sentence after which I returned to my community. But no one welcomed me; no one wanted to talk to me to the extent that I had to shift from Nyaruguru to Kigali. But when I met these people, they helped me and today I am in a cooperative with others,” she explained.
Tumaini says a lot needs to be done to help these people.