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Prevention of Violent Extremism in Kenyan Prisons - Adressing Stress and Trauma faced by Prison Officers

BMM hand-over Vehicles SOMNairobi - 19 August 2022 – The mental health of prison officers is critical to the management of violent extremist offenders (VEOs) and the prevention of violent extremism in the prison setting. Prison officers directly interact with VEOs for long periods of time whilst the latter serve their sentences. The officers are exposed to violent and radicalized behavior of individuals who have committed heinous crimes in society. During the Trauma Resilience Workshop funded by the British High Commission Nairobi and facilitated by UNODC, officers reported feeling traumatized through their constant interactions with VEOs.

Officers are often affected by series of verbal threats, insults and verbal abuses towards them and their loved ones. Without adequate psychosocial support, many of them find themselves stressed and demotivated, a factor that can negatively impact even on their personal and professional life.

“If the prisoner is able to control you through insults, you lose control of yourself. If the prisoner is unable to control you, then in fact, you are able to control the prisoner. If you can control yourself, then you are also able to control the prisoner.”- Paul Boyle, Trauma Resilience Expert, Albain Institute

In the 5-day workshop, Trauma experts from the Albain Institute trained a group of Kenya Prison Services (KPS) officers, who work in the VEO blocks at Kamiti and Langata Maximum Prisons in Nairobi, Kenya, on how to identify signs of stress and trauma among themselves. In this workshop, most officers were able to reflect on past experiences that may have caused them stress or trauma. At the end of the workshop, many of the officers reported a notable reduction in stress and a healthier outlook in life and their relationships with others.

“In the course of the workshop, I moved from being reactive to being reflective. I look forward to better relations at life at home and work as I feel healthier, centered and stable.”- a KPS Officer

In order for them to carry out their duties, it is important that prison officers are availed psychosocial support. With adequate support, they are able to be in control of their interactions and relations with VEOs. A healthy and mentally stable prison officer is a key ingredient to a safe and secure prison environment. This contributes greatly to the safety of society at large.

As a major component of the UNODC Prevention of Violent Extremism Projects, these workshops contribute towards the realization of UN Sustainable Development Goal number 16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and the UNODC Strategic Vison for Africa 2030 Investment Area 2, Securing the Safety of People from Organized Crime, Terrorism and Violence.

For more information, please check out the website of UNODC GMCP