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Nelson Mandela International Day: Kenya Messages

Official messages from the Commissioner General, Kenya Prisons Service, Mr. Wycliffe O. Ogallo, and Dr. Amado Philip de Andrés, UNODC Regional Representative for Eastern Africa.

Nairobi, 18 July 2020

Commissioner General, Kenya Prisons Service, Mr. Wycliffe O. Ogallo, OGW, EBS, CBS:

Kenya Prisons Service joins the world to commemorate the Nelson Mandela International Day. The Service uses today's occasion to draw attention to the more than 10 million prisoners worldwide as well as to the work of those entrusted with their safe, secure and humane custody.

Whilst we all know that the Late Nelson Mandela spent a significant period of his life in Prison, less known is the great extent to which his life in prison epitomized and influenced the management of prisons around the world through the renaming of international Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners as the Nelson Mandela Rules.

The compliance to the Nelson Mandela Rules is overseen by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – UNODC – and guides and ensures best practices in the management and treatment of prisoners. I call on all penal institutions globally to join hands with the UNODC in ensuring that the Nelson Mandela Rules make a difference to the lives of prisoners.

As much as the Nelson Mandela Rules are about safeguarding fundamental human rights and dignity of those behind bars, most importantly they advocate for the security and well-being of humanity. Investment in crime prevention results to reduce re-offending, public safety and enhanced social rehabilitation. Consequently, the Service in its daily execution of its mandate takes great cognizance of the fact that the vast majority of prisoners will eventually return to the society. The Service will always strive to apply these international standards in the management of our penal institutions.

As it is globally, the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 have posed unguided challenge to Kenya Prisons Service. As we monitor and respond to the situation, I am pleased to note that we have managed to fortify the 44,000 confined vulnerable prisoners against COVID-19 infiltration.

Notwithstanding the protocols by the service and enhanced by the Ministry of Health, the Nelson Mandela Rules remains buoyancy towards the handling and treatment of prisoners. In effect, the service has taken all-around effective measures to combat the spread of this virus by establishing quarantine and isolation facilities in all the 129 penal institutions. Temperature detection, hand sanitization and washing have been in cultured for inmates, staff and their families.

To be proactive and preventive, the service has suspended visits to its penal institutions, Youth Corrective Centers and all Borstal Institutions. These notwithstanding, we have put in place contingency plans for inmates to keep in touch with their loved ones through the use of mobile phones. Together with our valuable development partners, we will continue adjusting our contingency and preparedness measures to protect the prison populace which is confined and thus vulnerable against the virus.

On behalf of Kenya Prisons Service, I thank both state and non-state actors for their long-standing and unwavering support, especially at this time of heightened need. Equally, I salute the work of prison staff and the important social service they provide, especially during these testing time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, Kenya Prisons Service pledges its uncompromised observance of all global statutes guiding the welfare of the inmates in its custody but of most importance the Nelson Mandela rules hence this momentous celebration.

Hail to Nelson Mandela International Day!

Dr. Amado Philip de Andrés, UNODC Regional Representative for Eastern Africa:

Join us in marking Nelson Mandela International Day.

Observed each year on 18 July, this occasion focuses attention on prisons. It is an opportunity to promote humane conditions of imprisonment, raise awareness of prisoners as a continuous part of the community, and value the work of prison staff as a social service.

In 1957, the first Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners were issued by the United Nations. We have since come a long way with the help and leadership of UN Member States like Kenya. The current UN Standard Rules, best known as the “Nelson Mandela Rules”, set out the minimum accepted principles and practices in the humane treatment of prisoners and prison management globally.

UNODC is the custodian of these Rules. Inspired by the legacy of the former President of South Africa who spent 27 years of his life in prison, they provide guidance on many aspects of prison management centred on how to treat a person deprived of liberty with dignity.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, the Kenya Prisons Service (KPS) has gone to the next level in implementation of the Nelson Mandela Rules.

For example, it is barely three months since an Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) Clinic for dispensing methadone began operating at the Shimo La Tewa Prison in Mombasa County, achieving a first for Kenya. This unique OST Clinic is situated in the Shimo La Tewa Health Centre, in the compound of the maximum security prison, and serves prisoners who use and inject drugs as well as members of the surrounding community.

The clinic is the result of unique collaboration between KPS, Mombasa County, the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) and UNODC, with financial support from the UN Joint Team on HIV and the Government of Sweden.

Good prison health is good prison management. This is because the provision of drug treatment in prison settings contributes to safety and security by reducing other risks and disruptive behaviour, including violence. Moreover, by ensuring the continuum of care whereby prisoners, including those living with HIV and those who use and inject drugs, benefit from the same standards of health care that are available in the community, KPS provides a prime example of the Rules in action.

Among their guidance, the Rules also urge countries to reduce prison overcrowding and, as appropriate, to resort to non-custodial measures as alternatives to pretrial detention.

UNODC commends the justice sector for releasing vulnerable, low risk offenders serving prison terms of less than six months and for embracing alternatives to imprisonment to reduce prison congestion, such as plea bargaining and diversion. Yet such steps taken to decongest prisons due to the COVID-19 pandemic must not be seen as a “one-off”. UNODC remains committed to assisting justice agencies to aggressively pursue alternatives to imprisonment.

These messages also published in the Saturday Nation, 18 July 2020

UNODC Regional Representative Dr. de Andrés: video message for Nelson Mandela International Day 2020

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