Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Different Type of Classroom


            Following the MUBS graduation in the morning, we traveled to Luzira prison, which is located on the shores of Lake Victoria. The prison is a maximum-security prison that has a capacity of 20,000 inmates. It has four sections, and while there we spent time in the Upper Prison where inmates spend a minimum of 10 years behind bars. All of the prisoners are male, and they are separated by the color of uniforms they wear. A yellow uniform means that prisoner has a defined sentence, whereas a white uniform means that prisoner is on death row. Even though this is a place housing some of Uganda’s worst criminals, they have teamed up with MUBS to offer a program that gives inmates a chance to earn a degree and become productive members of society upon release.
            The program offers eligible prisoners education from primary school up to bachelor’s degrees in multiple subjects offered through MUBS. Even the most basic subjects are taught, and because of this most prisoners are eligible. The only prisoners who aren’t eligible are those who have a life sentence, have committed political crimes, and terrorists. Prisoners who are on death row are eligible for the programs because it is a way to show the judge that they are trying to become a productive member of society, and it could possibly lower their sentence. The director of this program is Biryomumaisho Anatoli Owakubaruho, and he serves as the head teacher, and welfare and rehabilitation officer at the Upper Prison. It is fitting that he runs the program because his name is associated with a positive outlook, and with rays of hope. By helping the prisoners with schooling he is giving them a positive outlook on the future after jail.  
            Prior to attending the prison I was nervous about what I would see there, and if it was even safe. After I attended I couldn’t have been more wrong about the assumptions I made before hand. The inmates were kind, respectful, and genuinely appreciated us coming. Even though many of the people we interacted with today were guilty of serious crimes, I believe in second chances and I hope the programs MUBS offers through the prison make it possible for these inmates to live a successful life after prison.

            Questions: How do you think the programs offered at the Luzira Prison affect the recidivism rates? Do you think the recidivism rate is higher in American prisons? Did what you think the prison would look like end up being what it actually was? If not, what was different? 

3 comments:

  1. Not only do I think that the inmate education program decreases recidivism rates, but also Professor Sserwanga told us that it has. When the prisoners are released with a degree they know that they will have somewhere to go with the ability to be successful. As one of the inmates expressed, the ability for him to gain an education has allowed him to be seen as something more than just a criminal. As Professor Sserwanga emphasized, the ultimate goal is to allow them to be productive citizens when they are released.

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  2. I definitely think that recidivism rates decrease with the education of a prisoner because it gives them something to work toward and the chance to leave the prison. I saw this through the prisoner's brief talks during our presentation and through conversations with the inmates. We were given the opportunity to buy the jewelry and other items that the inmates make in their free time. They told me that they were given classes on how to make the items, sell them, and save the money. Sometimes they save, and other times they pay for fees such as their kids' education. I did not expect the prison to be so open- we were very exposed to the prisoners, had physical contact with them, and watched them in the courtyard without a barrier. It was a bit uncomfortable because I am used to hearing of American prisoners with such criminals as being much more secure, with little contact from outsiders, and fewer programs designed to educate death row criminals.

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  3. ^above posted by Lisa Feldmann on Kristen Hansen's account

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