As the Prisons Department is implementing various rehabilitation, Reformation and reintegration programs in its various formations, it has partnered with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to introduce a Restorative Justice and Peace Building Project across the Prisons Formations, but starting with prisons in the Eastern region.
The Project aims at facilitating peace building and reconciliation between prisoners and the people they had offended and creating peace clubs to build peace within Prisons.
As the Malawi prisons are experiencing ongoing conflicts and violence, this pilot project seeks to set up a restorative justice and peace-building unit for 4500 inmates in Eastern region by establishing peace clubs in 9 prisons and victim offender reconciliation process.
The goal is to build the culture of peace, restore project participants’ relationship, and facilitate integration of the ex-prisoners in their communities.
The Memorandum of Understanding will see the Malawi Prisons Service integrating the Restorative Justice courses in its curriculum for both basic and in-service trainings, training officers at its training school and other passionate learners, having a resource center focusing at Restorative Justice Program and integrating the Restorative Justice program in the Malawi Prisons Service administrative structure.
Crime prevalence has been on the increase in Malawi in the recent years. It has been observed that a good number of persons apprehended and committed to prisons are ex-offenders who were once or more served sentences for similar or others offences.
This happens against the background of reformation and rehabilitation programs which are rolled out by MPS with an aim of curbing deviant lifestyles in prisoners.
Questions are being raised as to why offenders are being reconvicted yet the prison is offering reformation and rehabilitation programs.
It has also been observed that the greatest challenge for offenders lies in the period immediately after release when they attempt to reintegrate into the community and re-establish their lives.
Inevitably, when people are released from prison, the circumstances and memories of the crime they committed still prevail.
The broken bonds and wounds they caused still exist. They are often burdened with the stigma of their incarceration, and thus often find it even more difficult to settle in their communities.
Many ex-offenders opt to flee their communities and find peace elsewhere because of hostility in their communities.
Therefore, the work of rehabilitation and reintegration needs a rethink to address the situation. Restorative Justice and Building has been identified as an approach to mend broken bonds between victims of crime and offenders.
The overall objective of the Project is therefore to promote mediation services for the public benefit as a means of resolving conflict and promoting reconciliation for effective reintegration of offenders in to their various communities.
The same project is being implemented by the Zambian Correctional Service where it has proven to be an effective remedy towards peace building between offenders and the communities they had offended.
Superintendent Chimwemwe Mike Shaba
Prisons PRO and Project’s Communications Officer