Friday, May 27, 2016

Reflection: Luzira Prison

As an American whose only notion of prison is based on the American prison system I know I was a little nervous to be going to a prison. To say I was surprised by Luzira prison would be an understatement. From the moment we were allowed into the courtyard of the prison the environment shook all preconceived notions of the prison that I had. The environment felt so much friendly then that of the of American prisons. It amazed me that the prisoners were not patrolled by guards even while we were in the room with 75-100 prisoners.


Questions for students:
1. What was the thing that most shocked you about the prison?
2. Do you think the US could benefit from changing the prison into a more positive environment such as the one at Luzira?


12 comments:

  1. A thing that shocked me at Luzira was the attitude of the prisoners. Many times I had made accidental eye contact and in response I expected a mean look or no response, however they typically smiled and waved instead. In addition, the prisoners were eager to shake my hand with a smile on their face when we were exiting the prison. I personally think America can benefit from changing the prison into a more positive environment because if a person feels like he's being punished more than being rehabilitated, then obviously he/she will feel like there isn't a second chance for them and instead act more violent and rebellious. So with a positive vibrant prison focusing more on rehabilitation, the prisoners will feel like there is a way out through acting civil and improving their lives from past mistakes.

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  2. 1. The thing that shocked me most initially was that after those security measures and 2 gates, they just let us into the prison yard with the inmates. The biggest shock overall was the general demeanor of the prisoners. Many of them were only placed in that prison because of a corrupt political system, which you would think would make them angry all the time. To find the contrary was surprising and humbling. They want to contribute so badly to society, and they really care about the opportunity to learn.
    2. I think two huge factors contribute to the respectful demeanor of prisoners at Luzira vs the hostile demeanor of prisoners in the U.S. A good portion of the conversation at Luzira was aimed toward improving their education system with more resources and more options. Clearly the opportunity to learn all the way up to the level of a college diploma has a huge impact on their quality of life and overall psyche. And unlike their U.S counterparts, they have an outlet to channel their energy positively. The second factor must be the guard-inmate dynamic differences between the two countries. In the States, inmates are antagonized by the people who guard them, so prison becomesa power struggle in which one side must always lose. That's why the idea of inmates playing games with guards was so surprising to me, but it clearly helps inmate reform, especially since inmate leadership is so popular (another aspect of prison life absent from the States).

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  3. I think that the environment in Luzira prison is one that United States prisons should strive to be more like. The prisoners are very positive about their rehabilitation and education opportunities and had a good outlook on life after prison. I think prisons in the United States dehumanize the prisoners and something needs to be done to address this issue.

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  4. The thing that surprised me the most about the prison hit me right away when we walked in and saw all of the prisoners gathered together in the court yard with barely any guard supervision. In the states, especially in a maximum security prison, interaction between inmates is scarce and strictly monitored. I also was very surprised by the fact that the prisoners were able to get an education while they were in prison. This, to me, is a great idea because it helps the prisoners see how there life will continue after they leave the walls in the prison. However, i am not sure that the US would benefit from such a system because our prisoners in a maximum security prison do not share the Ugandans respectful demeanor. I believe there are a few factors that contribute to this. First, it is likely that many of the men in the Ugandan prison do not deserve to be there, also many places in the United States do not use the death penalty, where as in Uganda I believe some of their worst prisoners are simply killed.

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  5. Visiting the Luzira Prison was an eye-opening experience. Prisons in the U.S. have a very different environment tending to emphasize fear, obedience, and punishment. Luzira was so peaceful it was hard to tell it was even a maximum security prison. I think one of the most shocking things to me ws reading the vision statements and goals posted on the walls. Every single one remarked on the idea that prison is for rehabilitation not punishment. The goals of the prison was to respect the human rights of those encarcerated and to work to reform the ways of thinking that landed them in that position. I think it would be very difficult to implement a system like Luzira in the U.S. mostly because people tend to equate vengeance with justice. Because someone has done them wrong they should suffer. This way of thinking only leads to inmates struggling to readjust after prison and often causes relapses in crime. If we could get all Americans to think of prisoners as humans I think we could make a lot of progress in inmate rehabilitation. I think the fact that inmates weren't that angry (considering many of them were wrongfully accused) is truly a testament to the quality of the program. If the U.S. prison system could take one lesson from Luzira I think it should be that giving prisoners access to basic human rights (including education), a fundamental change in behavior will almost definitely be seen within the prison walls.

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  6. Going to Luzira was a very new experience for me. Walking in to the prison I expected to see something similar to an American prison in a movie. My expectations were incorrect to say the least. What shocked me most was how respectful, and not angry the prisoners were. The prisoners showed no obvious hatred to us, the guards, or even to each other. Like you said I was shocked to say the least when we were left in a room alone with nearly 100 prisoners. And I'm still amazed how kind they were! Also I do feel that American prisons would benefit from creating a more positive environment similar to Luzira. I feel there would be much less violence, and gang activity. Also I feel as if the prisoners would be more prepared to once again join society.

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  7. I was also in complete shock when we entered the prison. I was especially nervous when I saw the prisoners all carrying pens and other items that would be considered weapons in an American prison. I also couldn’t believe that the guards didn’t carry guns and were so trusting of the prisoners. When I first got into the room with the prisoners I resisted making eye contact because I thought that the prisoners would be aggressive and intimidating because we were in a maximum security prison. In reality they turned out to be nice people who were committed to the rehabilitation that the prison offered. After being in the prison for a few hours, I definitely think that the U.S. could benefit by changing their prison environments to being positive like at Luzira. It would reduce the hostility between the guards and the prisoners and reduce the negative stigma that go along with American prisons.

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  8. I was most shocked by the extent and development of their rehabilitation programs at Luzira, because their workshops are ACTUAL workshops. I first envisioned one large room for say carpentry, and another large room for tailoring; but instead, they have a small-warehouse sized workshop for carpentry, and a series of large rooms for tailoring and shoemaking. They not only train and give the prisoners skills in these areas, but they produce products to be sold outside of the prison, and even tailor their own uniforms and flags for government use. It was quite impressive. The US would obviously benefit from implementing more of these programs and in changing the environment in which prisoners live in. If you treat the prisoners like beasts and criminals, then they'll act as such. My only concern is that our prison systems are already deeply rooted in this punitive culture, so shifting to a more rehabilitative one would require a long time, unfortunately.

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  9. I think I was most stocked by the lack of guards/defenses at the prison. When I hear about a maximum security prison I assume that there will be thick walls, bars, guards everywhere, and fear. But at Luzira there wasn't any of that. Upon entering I was a little scared because of the freedom that all of the men had. They could come and do whatever they wanted to us, but as soon as you meet a few of them and listen to what they have to sad the fear subsides because they are all so calm. It is clear that whatever system Uganda is using is working well because these inmates were hardened criminals before entering and even while they are still incarcerated they have clearly been rehabilitated, which is more than can be said for american prisons. I would say that the US would definitely benefit from understanding and implementing whatever system the Ugandans have in place.

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  10. What shocked me about the prison was the extreme level of differences between Luzira and maximum security prison back in the US. I was surprised about the relationship between the security guards and the prisoners. It seemed like a big deal to treat the prisoners like people, because they are people. What inspired me the most about the prison system here was that it was not punishment, but rehabilitation. It was about making people who made bad choices previously into better people. They could learn from their mistake and move on. I believe that the US could definitely benefit from changing the system to more of one like Luzira, lots of people wouldn't end up back in prison, and it would create more productive citizens. We also I believe wouldn't have one of the highest incarcerated rates in the world if we changed the system to more of a rehabilitation than punishment.

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  11. The visit to Luzira prison is one of My best moments on this trip.This is because I expected the prisoners to be drowned in self pity but hell no that is not the case. These people are more hopeful and eager to learn and change the world more than most people who are free. My only concern is that the government together with other stakeholders like mubs can provide as many available opportunities to these prisoners cause surely they are a means to great change in society and the whole world at large

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  12. The thing that most shocked me about the prison was the atmosphere. It was absolutely incredible how little restriction was needed in a maximum security facility. However, I don't believe this could translate to the U.S. Our culture does not prioritize respect like Ugandan culture does, and gangs are much too prevalent. I believe the reason the system thrives in Uganda (as far as rehabilitation goes) is because Uganda is a developing economy. Uganda needs all members to be active in the economy, so it is important to help the prisoners contribute once they are released. The U.S. on the other hand, doesn't need prisoners to contribute upon release. Therefore, the U.S. doesn't prioritize rehabilitation.

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