Friday, June 6, 2014

Luzira Prison

Yesterday we went to one of Uganda's maximum security prisons, Luzira.  MUBS has been a key player in the development of education programs for the prisoners.  The program at the prison in one that often creates both nervousness and excitement.  This year our visit coincided with the visit from faculty and staff from Pitzer University in California though the Prison Education Program.  It was surprising to run into faculty and students from the US inside the prison walls.  One of the faculty was working with the prisoners on their physical education programs, especially their soccer program.  He worked with MUBS to schedule a game in the prison yard between a prison team and a team composed primarily Drake and MUBS students along with himself and one of his students.  Our team played very well for a group that had never played together before, and we think the prisoners took it easy on us, resulting in a win for the visitors!  The outcome was definitely a surprise.  Following the match we discussed the impressive education programs offered to the inmates, who were described as circumstantial prisoners.  This means that they are generally not life long criminals, but individuals whose circumstances lead them to commit an offense (such as robbery so they can eat).  The education programs have been very successful.  The participants in the program have an extremely low rate of returning to prison after release.  The approach to rehabilitation was eye opening, the success rate even more surprising than the outcome of the soccer match.  Students -  What were your fears prior to the visit?  What were your takeaways after the visit?          

11 comments:

  1. Before visiting the prison I was expecting much different conditions inside. As we entered the prison the prisoners were allowed to roam free with us as we visited and the guards were mostly unarmed. Such a liberal and free atmosphere was very surprising especially since we learned that most of the inmates had committed relatively serious crimes. The education programs were also surprising, based on what the head of schools told us I would believe that they were very successful. He also mentioned that they had an extremely low rate of recidivism, even lower than most US prisons. It made me curious as to whether the liberal conditions and the education program are contributing to those successes and whether similar programs could be successful in other countries too.

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  2. Unfortunately, I was unable to go to the prison, however, from other students explanations I was fascinated by the treatment of the prisoners. It seems as if the prison system attempts to provide prisoners with opportunities to better themselves and treats them as human beings rather than outcasts deserving of mistreatment. The fact that our students were able to play soccer amongst prisoners speaks to this assumption. I feel as if some prisoners committed crimes out of necessity to survive and are genuinely good people in need of a second chance which the education system provides.

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  3. As Megan said, I was very surprised with the conditions of the prison. I was also very surprised at how well the prisoners behaved and seemed very normal. Each prisoner wore a different color uniform that corresponds to the amount of time they are serving or in other words the severity of their crime. There were 3 colors; yellow for 10 to 34 years, orange for 35+ years, and white for those on death row. I found this to be very interesting as the prisoners were not all equal but rather defined by the severity of their crime and the severity being publicly displayed.

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  4. The thought of going to a maximum prison in a third world country was something I could not mentally prepare myself for. I was expecting to find gangs, run down facilities and people who had no respect for authority. Instead, I was shocked to find people who were smiling and very welcoming to the Drake/MUBS students. I was also surprised by the fact that I had the opportunity to play soccer in a prison in a foreign country like Uganda. During the soccer match I found myself talking to prisoners on the other team and laughing. I would have never imagined such a thing happening in my life and it completely changed my outlook on people who are in prison. I think that what they are doing in the Luzira prison is life changing and is creating a sustainable model by allowing the prisoners to get an education. Not only are they receiving an education but they are excelling in their studies with 70% of prisoners performing in the top tier when only 4% of MUBS students are doing so. With these results it is likely that prisoners, once released, will be able to be well educated and productive members of society.

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  5. I tried to tell myself before entering that I was not scared, but honestly I have seen too many TV shows about prisons in the United States to not be scared. As most things go here, I trusted that we would not do anything that was not outrageously unsafe. Then we entered and all I could think was wow this is a great time for a riot to start or something, as the previous students mentioned, there was really no supervision of the inmates that was obvious. I was not even sure we were being protected. At first I was really on edge, but then the soccer match began and all the inmates cheered for our team. They were laughing, dancing, and I began to forget that I was surrounded by inmates. Later, learning about the education system was great. I was impressed by how well the inmate students perform on tests. They even compared the inmate's scores to those who take the same tests at MUBS, and the inmates scores were usually higher. I took away the fact that inmates in Luzira are civilized, super good at soccer, and most importantly that they have a hopeful future for life after imprisonment.

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  6. Unfortunately I wasn't able visit Luzira, but from everything I've heard about it I wish I could have experienced it! I thought it was really interesting to hear that the prison authorities responded that all prisoners had been through trial, when that morning we had heard Dr. Livingstone from the Human Rights Foundation say that one main problem in Uganda's justice system is the fact that many people are imprisoned for years while awaiting trial. I'm not sure what the case may be, but it was interesting to hear about a real life discrepancy between Uganda's written law and how it is carried out.

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  7. Before actually going to the prison I was very nervous about being in a maximum security prison in a third world country. I had a picture in my mind of the prisons you see on TV with armed guards and unpredictable prisoners. I was very surprised when entering the compound to see hundreds of prisoners lining the soccer field ready to play. It was surreal to think we were so close to all these prisoners and just playing a soccer game against them. The prisoners were actually very well behaved. This is even more surprising when I realized none of the guards carried weapons, except for a night stick, inside the prison. It was also really cool to hear about the education program they have at Luzira.

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  8. Visiting the prison was certainly a little scary, to say the least. the fact that we passed through two gates with armed guards before being patted and passing through another gate just to get inside the first set of prison walls didn't help to allay my fears. Playing a soccer match unprotected and surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of prisoners took things up a notch too. I soon realized how normal all the prisoners really were, though, I talked with and joked around with a lot of the other players during the match and they were all incredibly friendly. I learned a lot from the whole experience. Its very important to not assume things about other people, even stereotypes about prisoners aren't accurate. Many of these people really did just make mistakes or make a decision based on a life or death situation. In any situation its imperative to look at the circumstances surrounding somebody's decision before making any judgements.

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  9. The soccer match was in no way what I was expected. The whole field was surrounded by in makes, it was pretty much guaranteed the ball would not go too far if it was kicked off the field. The inmates there were all very nice too, definitely not what I expected, but I guess that connects back to them being in jail for petty crimes verses in United States where its more organized crimes and violence like gangs. Their kindness was definitely exemplified by letting us win the soccer match, hahaha, I am 110% sure they lost that on purpose. One of the most interesting things facts I learned that day was how the prisoners scored higher than regular university students. I guess it is understandable considering the amount of free time they have and their interest to develop knowledge for a potential job outside of jail.

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  10. I'm just glad that guy Nigel was on our team. I was also inspired by the prison's emphasis on "life outside of prison." They are doing their best to educate the prisoners to be successful upon release. It gives them a sense of purpose. A friend of mine who went on the trip two years ago said he talked to an inmate on death row who was learning to read before he was executed. Although too late for this man, it was inspiring to know he died trying to improve his character. In addition, after speaking to Dr. Livingstone and learning about how poor the justice system is, I could not help but wonder how many of these inmates were innocent.

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  11. I had never been so nervous than when I walked into the prison to see all of the prisoners lining the field. The game got started and it was clear that soccer is not our national sport for a reason. The prisoners controlled the game thoroughly and did not give us a chance! post game I talked to a few of the prisoners and they seemed to be happy. The enjoyed the best of what they could and regretted doing what they had to get into prison, but sometimes it was necessary for their survival.

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