KIGALI - Rwanda is changing the 1930 law governing prisons service from punitive to corrective measures, said Steven Barinda, the Director of National Prisons Service.
In an interview with The New Times, Barinda explained, “The (new) law is to make people change from bad to good behavior.
We shall be more correctional than punitive.”
Barinda said that there are plans to change the name, prisons, to ‘Correctional Institutions.’ They will then be special places for correcting people’s behavior until they can be incorporated back to society.
Rwandan prisons that were constructed in 1930 have been operating under the laws of King Leopold II and the ordinance of 1961.
Barinda said the people who set the old laws determined punishments without taking into account Rwandan norms. He cited Gacaca as a traditional way of handling cases, which has proved more efficient in handling Genocidaires.
He added that as most African countries are also changing from punitive to the correctional system; a professional institution is under construction with the main goal of keeping prisoners in a humanitarian way.
This includes teaching prisoners the social dimension of living in a community without causing harm to others.
The prisons service plans to reallocate prisons and decongest prisoners. “We feel we will create different prisons for different categories of wrong doing,” he said.
Changes will also affect old prisons in houses that were not meant for prisoners. He said there are residential houses that were converted into prisons.
Barinda said construction has already started in Butare, where a number of prisoners have increased due to Genocide cases.
“With funds, we hope to build Butamwa prison which will accommodate prisoners from 1930 and Remera prison,” he said. The new structures of prisons are bigger than the present ones.
He added that plans and policies are in place, but reforms haven’t started.
He said they will start after preparations, which include training of workers and making new uniforms.
He added that there is hope to have a commission, which is thought to be in place next year. He also cited a number of issues delaying the reform as office equipment specially computers and lack of funds to implement what is on paper.