Virtual conference to commemorate Nelson Mandela Day |26 July 2021
Same challenges observed in four prison services
Although they each have their unique issues, prison services in Seychelles, Mauritius, Israel and Kenya are facing much of the same challenges – a significant level of recidivism, presence of mobile phones and drugs in prisons – it came out in a virtual conference on Friday.
The virtual conference was organised to commemorate Nelson Mandela Day, celebrated each year on July 18.
The event was an opportunity for all four prison services to review and share examples as well as challenges regarding improving prison standards and rehabilitation.
It was hosted by the Seychelles Prison Services in collaboration with the James R. Mancham Peace and Diplomacy Research Institute at the University of Seychelles.
This year marks the fourth occasion that the Seychelles Prison Services have observed Mandela Day, a day which seeks to address social injustices around the world and promote human rights, even in prisons.
The Seychelles Prison Services first observed ‘Nelson Mandela Day’ on July 18, 2018, cementing their intention to align themselves with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of prisoners, or the ‘Mandela Rules’.
The virtual event was also assisted by guest speakers and observers including Internal Affairs Minister Errol Fonseka, who gave the opening remarks, principal secretary for family affairs Linda William-Melanie and university lecturers.
Due to technical difficulties, representatives from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) were unable to attend.
In his remarks, Minister Fonseka commended the Seychelles Prison Services and the UniSey for annually hosting and coordinating activities on the occasion of Mandela Day.
He noted that prison services should not operate in isolation and highlighted the memoranda of understandings (MoU) between Seychelles and Tanzania, as well as between Seychelles and Mauritius.
“In 2018, the Seychelles Prison Service and the Tanzanian Prison Service signed an MoU for Tanzania to provide seasoned prison staff to be seconded to us. Three years into this MoU, the cooperation remains strong and those staff with us from the Tanzanian Prison Service continue to work with diligence. I take this time as well to congratulate Tanzania for agreeing to host the second African Forum for Corrections, Prisons and the reintegration of offenders back to society. The first forum we know was held in the Kingdom of Morocco in January 2020 and was a success,” stated Minister Fonseka.
“In 2020, I note that the Israeli Prison Service welcomed the visit of our superintendent of prisons to their headquarters and facilities. It provided an opportunity for us to start discussions on future cooperation between the respective services. I thank them for being so receptive,” added the minister.
Each of prison services were provided with around 15 to 20 minutes to present the situations in prisons in their respective countries.
Although each had their unique issues, the presentations and discussions showcased that the four prison services were facing much of the same challenges.
The prison services all noted significant levels of recidivism ̶ the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend - with Mauritius noting a high recidivism rate of 85% (statistics from 2015), 70% in Tanzania, 36% in Seychelles (statistics from 2015) and around 34% in Israel.
Comparing notes, these prison services noted some universal obstacles such as the presence of mobile phones and drugs in prisons.
In regard to Seychelles, Superintendent of the Seychelles Prison Services, Raymond St Ange, noted an increasing number of elderly men, aged 63 years and above, who are being sentenced in relation to sexual abuses cases.
Also discussed was the management of Covid-19 in prisons which all four countries stated were being handled adequately, with vaccination campaigns already started and almost completed in some.
Budgetary constraints, compounded by the economic impact of Covid-19, were also addressed.
Mr St Ange expressed his satisfaction with the two hours long virtual conference which dealt with many real and pressing issues in prisons.
Following the conference, the Seychelles Prison Services held a roundtable discussion with staff members who were able to see that some challenges are not unique to Seychelles, and they were able to provide their own insights.