Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS) Tuesday joined the international community to celebrate the Nelson Mandela Day 2017. The day, also known as Mandela Prisoner Rights Day, recognises the fundamental rights of inmates.
The Nelson Mandela Prisoner Rights Day might be on the international calendar but not every other country observes it. Inmates in Rwanda must be one of those privileged enough to have the Justice minister spend a day with them as the country marked the day.
The day was observed under the theme, “Rights of inmates are fundamental to their rehabilitation,” in part to demonstrate commitment to uphold Nelson Mandela rules for treatment of prisoners.
Mandela recommended enjoying fundamental rights such as right to food, shelter, medical assistance, hygiene, communication and those related to human dignity.
Of importance, too, is making the most of inmates by allowing them to use their time behind bars to gain hands-on skills. Such training would be important once they are released to public life as those who ended up felons for reasons such as trying to make ends meet would come out with skills to start afresh and not use unlawful means to make a living again.
Although UN has had rules on treatment of offenders since 1955, most people around the world continue to perceive most correctional services as ‘torture chambers’ where inmates are denied even basic rights except to life.
But the fact that Rwanda marked the day with much fervour is a testament that the country has long shaken itself off the yoke of prisons being dimly lit chambers where you enter and emerge with nightmares that haunt you for the rest of your life.
More important is that RCS has continued to recognise that inmates who cannot enjoy rights tend to become disassociated from society even after their release into public life. The ideals of correctional service are like the term itself says: to reform felons into law abiding members of society until such a time that they are ready to be reintegrated into public life.
RCS should go beyond heeding Justice minister Johnston Busingye’s call that prison wardens respect rights of inmates to training inmates and hiring human resource such as vocational and technical trainers within its ranks to facilitate the essence of the correction.
At the end of the day, those who come out of prisons facilities should walk with their heads high, with dignity and skills to start afresh.