5 March 2020 - As the guardian of the Nelson Mandela Rules (by which the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners are commonly known), UNODC has since long provided technical assistance to Member States on prison reform. With its Prisoner Rehabilitation initiative, a component of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, UNODC has also been assisting Member States with the integration of new approaches to prison management and to prisoner rehabilitation.
In Zambia, prisoner rehabilitation was given a boost last year when two new facilities were opened, namely the Multi-Purpose Vocational Skills Training Centre at the Mwembeshi Maximum Correctional Facility, managed by the Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) and the Ex-Prisoner Registration Centre, supported by the NGO Prisoner Reintegration Empowerment Organization (PREO). Both facilities provide a unique, comprehensive approach to reducing reoffending through in-prison skills training and post-release support, aiming at reducing recidivism in the country and promoting social reintegration.
To showcase this important work and the ongoing UNODC-supported partnership between ZCS and PREO, a special side event co-organized by the Republic of Zambia, the State of Qatar and UNODC was held this week during the 63 rd session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).
Leading the Zambian delegation to the CND, Commissioner Alita Mbahwe of the Drug Enforcement Commission thanked UNODC for its long-term support to Zambia, highlighting the importance of supporting the social reintegration of prisoners, in addition to their rehabilitation. In particular, she stressed the need to provide health care as part of rehabilitation programmes, given the many needs of this segment of the population in that field. Rehabilitation, she explained, extends beyond the prison gates and fosters communities.
The Commissioner General of ZCS, Dr. Chisela Chileshe, spoke of the positive effect of the Global Programme's support to PREO, contributing to the organization and the promotion of assistance to offenders as they approach life after release, including ensuring the continuity of health care services. "These initiatives benefit prisoners as they can capitalize on their talent and their potential, facilitating reintegration into the community," he said.
As founder of PREO, Derrick Malumo is very familiar with the many challenges former prisoners face when they are released from prison. He described the wide range of their needs, such as shelter, food, clothing, capital to initiate projects, access to health care, legal support, and help with family tracing, amongst others. With the support of UNODC, Mr. Malumo explained, the established registration centre now serves as a much-needed platform to identify the needs of released prisoners, providing the required linkage services or opportunities in the community: "PREO will use its established networks to link released prisoners to legal and health services, and also to employment and entrepreneurial opportunities."
It is vital to ensure the continuity of health care services, explained Ehab Salah from UNODC's HIV/AIDS Section, starting from the time of admission to prison, during the inter-facility transfer, and after the prisoner's release. This contributes to help reducing the transmission rates of infectious diseases, within prisons and beyond - an imperative to achieving SDG3 and its goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. UNODC has supported Zambia since 2008 in that respect, identifying gaps and opportunities to be addressed in HIV prisons; UNODC is also working with PREO to ensure that those released from prisons have uninterrupted access to treatment for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
As he reiterated his country's commitment to enhancing the capacities of prisoner rehabilitation programmes through the funding of the Global Programme, Ambassador Sultan Almansouri, Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar, highlighted that it was important to display achievements such as these in order to encourage other Member States to embark on them.
For Marco Teixeira, Senior Programme Officer, the successful collaboration between ZCS and PREO, with the continued support of UNODC, needs to continue to achieve the desired complementarity of efforts, and to offer prisoners a new chance to fully reintegrate into society - in itself one of the goals of the Global Programme, within its mission to promote a culture of lawfulness.