There is need for psychotherapy services in the country’s correctional facilities to address varying cases of mental illness facing inmates, officials have said.
They made the observation after a new study showed that up to 50.7 per cent of inmates in various prisons in the country have mental health problems.
The report was released this week by Foundation Dide (Dignity in Detention), a non-government organisation.
The study was conducted on 757 inmates from six prisons, including 44 women, 550 men and 163 children.
It showed that 50.7 per cent of them had a certain type of mental illness.
At least 30 per cent are suffering from depression, 14.5 per cent traumatism, 7.8 per cent extreme anxiety, while 9.9 per cent have sexual disorder.
But Odette Mukansoro, the executive secretary of the Dide Foundation, said the findings are not so alarming considering the country’s tragic history.
She, however, said there is need to address the mental-related problems by availing psychotherapy in prisons.
This, she said, can help prevent further crimes by inmates when released after completing their sentences.
“When we analysed the findings, we realised that the majority of those with these conditions had confessed their crimes…they are still feeling the consequences of their actions. The severity of their mental health issues is relative to the period they are supposed to spend in prison,” Mukansoro said.
She added that they would sit together with all the stakeholders to discuss how to include psychotherapy services in correctional facilities.
The Commissioner General of Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS), George Rwigamba, said the findings will help inform policy and action plans in bid to address the existing issues.
“We believe that this research was carefully conducted as it was done by people with expertise and experience working with inmates. It must be clear that it is not easy to cope with imprisonment when you used to live as a free person but with counseling and support they can overcome these problems,” he said.
According to RCS figures for 2017, there are over 64,757 inmates across the country. At least 28,806 of them are held over Genocide crimes.
Madeleine Nirere, the chair of National Human Rights Commission, said that stakeholders have to effectively plan how to respond to each category of mental health illness as highlighted in the study to ensure that those who are in need of medical help can get it and those who need counseling get it as well with special consideration to women and children.
“Women and child inmates have their own specific issues. Children suffer a lot seeing no future ahead while women who have left children behind never stop worrying about their welfare.
“They need a specific approach. Though they are supposed to pay the price for their crimes it is also important to continue to support them as humans as they serve their sentences,” she said.
Nirere added that it is necessary to train prison warders to be able to understand and respond to inmates’ mental crisis accordingly.