New Era recently had the opportunity to visit the workshop at the Windhoek Correctional Facility, where convicted criminals are taught manual skills as part of their ongoing rehabilitation.
The workshop comprises various divisions such as upholstery, carpentry, tailoring and panel beating. The inmates, who go to the workshop with very limited to no skills in handiwork, are able to learn new skills which they can later use when released from prison.
The Senior Supervisor at the Windhoek Correctional Facility workshop, Gotfried Tiboth, says some inmates also acquire trade diplomas while in prison and this too is part of the rehabilitation process.
At the tailoring division the inmates are responsible for sewing uniforms, bedding and pyjamas for prison facilities across the country, explained Tiboth. “We also cater for outside people,” added Tiboth. The division accommodates up to 40 inmates, said Tiboth.
The inmates, who spend up to nine hours a day at the workshop, work there for up to four years prior to their release from prison. As they are released and vacancies in the workshop become available, other inmates are recruited, he explained.
“They get incentives. They are paid for the work that they’re doing. They start with N$30 and in the process that amount increases,” explained Tiboth.
Tuhafeni Hamwaama, who has so far served 15 of his 20-year prison sentence for murder and robbery, said he is able to make eight trousers in one week. The 65-year-old says he is able to make even more dresses in one week as they are easy to make.
“Generally we work according to what is given to us,” he said. Hamwaama, who will also be released soon on parole, added, “I want to open my own tailoring business.”
Elizabeth Ngaringombe, a supervisor at the upholstery division of the workshop, explained that convicted criminals at her division are taught from scratch, 15 at a time and within three years they are fully qualified.
“We take in prisoners depending on the shortage. When some convicts are released we take in new ones. Most of them are very disciplined and dedicated,” said Ngaringombe.
Simeon Muulu, 35, who has served 15 years of a 20 year prison term for murder, said he will start a carpentry business once he is released in a few months for good behaviour. “I will start my own business if I get support from my family,” said the father of four.
Talking about his past, Muulu advised young people to stay out of trouble by all means. “People should stop compromising and doing things for friends. If something happens friends will not be there to support you,” Muulu said.