Convicted offenders entitled to privileges in prison

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New Era Newspaper Namibia
Official Logo for New Era Newspaper 2016 version

Windhoek

Following the successful lawsuit of the prison authority at Hardap prison by an inmate to have his TV returned to him, New Era went out to investigate what privileges are accorded to inmates at the country’s various correctional facilities.

It emerged that correctional facilities have designed a system that rewards inmates – or offenders as the department calls them – for good behaviour and according to their security classifications.

For example, an convict classified as a maximum security offender – and these do not necessarily include rapists and murderers – are granted the minimum privileges, while those classified as minimum security offenders which may include “reformed or rehabilitated,” murderers and rapists are afforded maximum privileges which includes four recreational games outside prison perimetres per month, regardless of the period of their sentence.

While the offender rehabilitation programme is currently only fully operational at three institutions, namely Windhoek Correctional Facility, E Shikongo Correctional Facility in Tsumeb and Elizabeth Niemba in Rundu, it is envisaged to be rolled out countrywide, pending the availability of funds.

Information obtained by New Era shows that various factors determine the classification of an offender. The length of the sentence, or the seriousness of the offence, while in some cases indicative, are not necessarily the yardsticks used to determine the security classification of an offender.

Offenders are monitored for a period of time from their entrance into the system and are accorded security classifications according to their behaviour.

For instance, New Era was told, an offender that was convicted of a minor offence and sentence to a minimum sentence can be classified as a maximum security offender based on his behaviour during the initial period of incarceration, while an offender convicted of a more serious offence and sentenced to the maximum term of imprisonment may be classified as a low medium offender.

According to Deputy Commissioner Emma Nafuka, who is managing the offender privileges programme, the programme was first introduced in 2008 with the aim to encourage offenders to use their time in prison to change their behaviour.

According to her, punishment for offences committed has changed has changed dramatically from mere punishment to trying to rehabilitate offenders and send them back into society as contributing members. She said many people say offenders in prison are living in luxury, enjoy three meals a day, are able to watch TV, but tend to forget about the psychological effects of being incarcerated.

The most basic human right is denied to them, the right to liberty, she said. According to Nafuka, the offender’s privileges programme was introduced to focus the attention of offenders away from wrong influences. While she was quick to admit that not every offender embraces the rehabilitative side of imprisonment, she was adamant that with time every offender could be shown the error of their ways and sent out to the world a better person that can contribute to society. Inmates’ privileges range from access to a communal TV room to having a TV set in their cell, up to five visits per month, possession of a radio/cassette player, up to five telephone calls per month, access to educational facilities and access to the kiosk for purchases of items, such as sweets and chocolate.

However, Correctional Services officials advised that some of the privileges such as access to TV, kiosk and phone calls are not available immediately and will only be granted as circumstances allow. Offenders are also not allowed to bring or possess any privileged item on his or her own. The misuse or abuse of any privilege can also lead to the suspension or removal of such privilege.

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