By The Insight Post Uganda
In a bid to combat the rising incidence of crime across Uganda, there is a growing call for the government to establish resettlement facilities for former convicts.
Morris Kizito, the Country Director of Mission After Custody (MAC), an organisation dedicated to assisting current and former prisoners, highlights a critical need for such facilities to address the challenges faced by ex-inmates upon their release.
Kizito underscores that the absence of suitable accommodation for ex-convicts has contributed significantly to the surge in criminal activities in the country. Many individuals, he points out, exit prison only to find themselves thrust into an uncertain and often desperate life. Some former prisoners, tragically, struggle to reconnect with their families and loved ones.
“These individuals confront an array of challenges that compel them to engage in criminal activities shortly after leaving prison,” notes Kizito.
The director explains that while incarcerated, inmates establish friendships, and receive essential amenities such as food, medication, and education. Regrettably, some are unable to sustain these basic needs upon their release.
As Kizito elaborates, these ex-convicts often experience a sense of alienation from their communities, feeling neglected and marginalized. This, in turn, pushes them towards criminal pursuits as a means of survival.
Now, he warns that once released prisoners feel excluded, the likelihood of them joining criminal networks and, ultimately, returning to incarceration significantly increases.
Disturbing statistics from five years ago reveal that the Uganda Prisons Service recorded a re-offending rate of 40%. In simpler terms, out of every 100 inmates released, a staggering 40 would find themselves back in prison within a year.
This concerning trend was also acknowledged by the Uganda Police Force report of 2009, which highlighted that many individuals leaving prison were immediately treated as regular offenders by law enforcement.
Currently, MAC has provided shelter and support to more than 500 homeless individuals, a population that includes international deportees and local people struggling with homelessness.
To mitigate the cycle of re-offending within the areas of incarceration, Kizito proposes a solution. The director urges the Ministry of Internal Affairs to construct resettlement homes for ex-prisoners.
Moreover, he suggests allocating land for the establishment of income-generating projects to equip former inmates with valuable skills that can help them reintegrate into society productively upon their release from prison.
In the pursuit of a safer, more rehabilitative approach to criminal justice, the establishment of resettlement facilities and vocational programs represents a significant step forward for Uganda.
It not only offers a lifeline to those who have served their sentences but also holds the potential to reduce crime rates and re-offending, thereby fostering a more secure and harmonious society for all.
According to Kayinga Muddu Yisito, the Coordinator- Community Transformation Foundation Network, the rehabilitation of ex-convicts is of paramount importance for several compelling reasons, as it not only benefits individuals who have served their sentences but also contributes to the overall well-being of society.
One of the primary reasons cited by Kayinga is that these initiatives offer vital support, encompassing job training, housing assistance, and counselling, effectively diminishing the likelihood of ex-convicts reverting to criminal life. By addressing the underlying causes of criminal behaviour and affording individuals a fresh start, resettlement programs disrupt the cycle of reoffending.
Successful resettlement ensures that ex-convicts reintegrate into society as law-abiding citizens, subsequently bolstering community safety by mitigating the potential threats posed by individuals who might otherwise be drawn into criminal activities.
Kayinga contends that resettlement also assumes a pivotal role in facilitating the reintegration of ex-convicts within their communities. It allows them to reconstruct relationships, recover a sense of belonging, and make positive contributions to society. This approach recognises the value of second chances and offers the essential support required for individuals to achieve successful reintegration.
Moreover, he points out that a significant number of ex-convicts encounter formidable obstacles when attempting to secure employment, primarily due to their criminal records. Resettlement programs often encompass vocational training and job placement services, providing individuals with the tools to seek lawful employment and attain self-sufficiency.
Furthermore, Kayinga explains that these initiatives help individuals overcome the stigma associated with incarceration, empowering them to reclaim their self-esteem. This psychological restoration represents a fundamental milestone on the path to successful reintegration and rehabilitation.
However, the efficacy of resettlement programs carries the added benefit of alleviating the strain on overcrowded prison systems. As fewer ex-convicts return to incarceration due to successful reintegration, these initiatives not only conserve valuable resources but also enable correctional facilities to shift their focus from mere containment to meaningful rehabilitation efforts.