Zambia, August 26th, 2021. UNODC supports he ongoing “Building Networks Behind Prison Walls” virtual webinar series since 2020, with the aim to address issues and challenges and bring awareness to life in and after prison. The latest one marked the 10th instalment of the series, and focused on innovative actions towards the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners in the southern region of Africa. With guest speakers Mr Nkalimeng Mothobi, Mr Angel Mutale and Mr Edson Musiwa, the webinar was hosted and moderated by Mr Derrick Malumo, who founded the Prison Re-Integration and Empowerment Organisation (PREO) in 2014. Their work centres around helping released prisoners reintegrate back into society after serving their sentence, being pardoned or being acquitted by the court in the Southern African countries.

The first speaker of the session was the Executive Director of the Crime Prevention, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Ex-Offenders Association (CRROA), Mr Nkalimeng Mothobi. He stated that “most former prisoners barely receive support from their families and communities”, making this a top priority for his organisation in Lesotho. According to him, “a successful reintegration will require community services to be explored as an alternative to the current sentencing strategy for smaller crimes”.

Next speaker, Mr Angel Mutale, Project Officer for Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), continued by explaining how VSO contributes to the rehabilitation of prisoners and aid their successful reintegration with their families and communities upon release through their work with the Southern Africa Network of Prison (SANOP) and the Zambia Prisoners Skills Training for Successful Reintegration Project (ZISSR). Mr Mutale also invited Mr Benad to speak of his experience upon release from prison, who expressed gratitude for the counselling sessions and family mediation meetings he received through the programme. Upon release, he said he was “welcomed back by the community and by his family members”.

Lastly, Mr Edson Musiwa, Youth Entrepreneurship Advisor for SANOP, gave a detailed explanation of the work carried out by this organisation, which is focused on entrepreneurship and business training, vocational skills training, psychological rehabilitation and sports and recreation (as part of stress management and improvement of physical health). Additionally, the organisation encourages former prisoners to “get involved in or start their own associations that work towards the rehabilitation and reintegration of other individuals in their situation”, helping them with project management, training and funding.

Various participants had the chance to express their opinions and make questions to the panellists. Mr Geoffrey Mayamba asked “how easy is it to obtain funding resources from local government in order to support former prisoners”, to which Mr Mothobi replied by saying that “it is a hard process, as stigma still poses as one of the biggest challenges to raise funds for these organisations” and expressed the importance of carrying out advocacy activities to gain access to said resources.

Despite the many challenges former prisoners face after being released, it is important to recognise and celebrate the hard work on reintegration and rehabilitation made by organisations, many of which are led by the very same people who went through the same struggles. Programmes that focus on mental health issues, counselling and family mediation have been proved effective to achieve these goals, and should be further explored and expanded to maintain the good results we have seen in the southern African countries.


Additional resources:

AHHPPN Website