For obvious reasons, because of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda’s prison system is overburdened.
When you add common criminals, prison walls are bursting at the seams. The government has been forced to build a larger prison outside the capital to relocate inmates of Kigali’s two main prisons.
The new Nyarugenge Prison, situated in Mageragere, is currently home to 8000 inmates.
It definitely makes sense when the government mulls reforms of correctional methods to ease the pressure on the institution.
The policy of reducing incarceration time for petty criminals in favour of community services is the right way to go. Not only does it make financial sense, but the common criminals will cease being a burden to the state and instead become productive by contributing to society.
It will also help turn around people who commit small crimes instead of incarcerating them. Many prison systems focus more on punitive measures instead of correctional.
Most hardcore criminals started small, but because of the prison environment, a breeding ground for criminal sophistication, it is too late to save them.
Petty criminals can be rehabilitated, but once released from prison, they will be back behind bars in a blink of an eye because of the absence of solid social reinsertion structures.
That is why this new shift in rehabilitation, as opposed to punishment, is a welcome move and there is no shortage of community work.
As was witnessed by TIG (community work in lieu of long imprisonment terms) performed by small time Genocide offenders who showed remorse, both communities and criminals benefited.