Convicts could begin to receive a college education in correctional facilities if a new correctional services bill is passed by Parliament.
Its relevance was approved by the Chamber of Deputies on Friday, October 8, 2021, and the next step must be considered by a competent parliamentary committee.
The new bill is part of efforts to overhaul the correctional system by integrating education into the process of rehabilitating convicts.
It aims to make inmates more productive, according to Amb. Solina Nyirahabimana, Minister of State for Constitutional and Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Justice.
The bill provides that the institution in charge of penitentiary services establishes a program to equip convicts with the appropriate skills and knowledge to ensure their autonomy and help them to become law-abiding citizens.
The bill proposed the incorporation of new terminologies corresponding to the correctional service in general, some being replaced by terms reflecting the correction policy.
Examples of terminological changes include the prison to be replaced by the correctional institution, the prisoner by the convicted person, and the prison guard by the correctional officer.
Speaking of an education program, the bill proposes that the institution in charge of correctional services put in place strategies and literacy programs for convicts.
The institution also establishes an educational program with reference to the government program for the education of prisoners at the primary, secondary and university levels (for general education) and technical and vocational training (TVET), according to the bill.
MPs are worried
MP Leonard Ndagijimana said it was good for convicts to learn skills in TEVT, but expressed concern about university education as it could lead people to engage in crimes.
“People can commit crimes knowing that they will serve sentences of say five years in jail, be able to finish college when they are released, get degrees and apply,” he said, urging the caution to ensure that this decision does not cause the multiplication of crimes in the country.
MP John Rukurwabyoma said making prisons more conducive to life than the outside world would result in people committing crimes intentionally for the purpose of being jailed for access to services such as education and welfare.
“We have to balance to make sure that we provide good services in prison, but in a way that they are not better than those outside the prison,” he said.
Nyirahabimana underlined that it was necessary to be careful so that the services that the convicts receive do not make them forget that they are criminals.
According to the explanatory note to the bill, in Rwanda, matters relating to the institutional framework of the Rwandan prison services and the management of prisons come under the same law n ° 34/2010 of 12/11/2010 on the creation, operation and organization of the Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS), as amended to date.
Focus on restorative justice
MP Justine Mukobwa said that so far there have been convicts who have had to serve life sentences due to the gravity of the crimes they have been convicted of, wondering why the government wants to go. focus on corrections.
“The correctional service was underway, but those convicted who were to be jailed, including those sentenced to life in prison, had to serve their sentences. How will it be now that the government has taken root in corrections, ”she asked.
Nyirahabimana said that opting for punitive justice only – consisting mainly of prisons and sentences – may cause convicts to become more violent upon their release due to the bitter experiences they have had and the recidivism (relapse in criminal behavior) when they are reintegrated into society.
She said more than 50 percent of convicts in the country are under the age of 40, which means they should be released after serving their sentences.
“This is in line with the new sanctions policy. Punishment is a principle, but how to punish them [convicts] so that when released [upon completion of their sentences], they would not fall back into delinquency, nor would they become harmful to the communities in which they were integrated, ”she underlined.
“This is a political choice to help convicts become decent citizens,” she said, stressing the need for restorative justice.
The 2010 law first opened up a new perspective on corrections by focusing on rehabilitating a convict to become a law-abiding citizen, who is also trained to acquire skills in a profession that will empower him and her. will prevent him from committing further crimes.
However, Nyirahabimana told parliamentarians that this new concept of correction could not be properly incorporated into the current law governing the Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS) and programs, and correctional related services have not either. have been sufficiently integrated into the law. .
This special correctional service bill does not contain the management and operation of the RCS, as it is part of another stand-alone bill which is also submitted to Parliament for consideration.