Thursday, May 25, 2017

Luzira Maximum Security Prison

Luzira Maximum Security Prison appeared to be very different than a maximum security prison within the United States. From simple observations, the prisoners and guards have a positive and interactive relationship with each other that stems more from friendship than an authoritarian relationship. The prisoners, although some have committed heinous crimes, are allowed freedom to roam around within the complex. A difference that one was unable to miss was the rehabilitation efforts of the prison. Luzira, being the largest prison in Uganda and the largest prison in Eastern Africa for some time, has seemingly done well with training some prisoners to perform vocational traits or receive education; even education up to a college degree or certificate through the prison's partnership with MUBS. A poster seen in the assistant officer's office read "crush the crime, not the criminal" reenforces the policy of rehabilitating criminals so they are better and involved citizens when they renter society. It may be perceived as sustainable in some sense to be able to reintegrate inmates successfully into society. The prison also conducts ways to sustainably support itself through economics. The prisoners make money when they work, the money is put into the prison bank where they may use it for things they need within the prison. If there is money left over when the prisoner gets out, he may take that money with him. The prison generates money for itself by making chairs and other furniture in the carpenter sector. It sells the furniture to schools and businesses within the country. In the sewing and tailor sector, the inmates make prisoner and guard uniforms for the whole country, as well as Ugandan flags, flags for the president's car, and other items. Then they sell these to the buyers, which brings profit into the prison. One of the largest struggles the prison deals with is overcrowding and understaffing. The prison's capacity is 600 inmates, currently it has over 3,000 inmates, with only 300 guards. Another major challenge facing the prison is that most of the inmates have not yet received a trial. From an outsiders perspective, the prison seems to be somewhat tolerable, but behind the curtains it may be a different story. 

Questions for Drake/MUBS Students:

In what ways could the prison become more sustainable economically? Is paying the prisons very little exploiting them? Do you agree with the head officer that it is in the best interest of the prisoners to work? 

Do you think the prison is environmentally sustainable through the planting and gardening within the prison? What parts may not be environmentally friendly? Why?

What do you think about the relationships between the prisoners and the guards? During the Human Rights visit Shelia talked a lot about torture or abuse, do you think that occurs in the prison? What is your opinion on the inmates on death row not knowing when they will die?

What is your opinion on the prisoners being there without first receiving a trial? What are ways this problem can be fixed? 

12 comments:

  1. Was this a male only prison or co-ed? With the ratio of guards to prisoners, do they ever have issues with violence or uprising?

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    1. The prison is co-ed but the men and women are separated. We only went to the section of the prison with men. The guards did not mention having any violence or uprising but they were also trying to put forward their best appearance for us. If they do have uprisings, I believe they would not have told us. Although the head guard did mention that their policy of letting the prisoners be free to walk around and work helps with limiting violence.

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  2. Great summarization, Emma. The small gardens throughout the compound that grow produce for the inmates are functional and may give inmates a connection to nature that they miss while in the confines of the compound. While U.S. prisons could learn from this gardening practice, it may be more difficult in areas that experience harsh winters. With climate in mind, an explanation for the outdoor roaming of inmates may be the lack of air conditioned buildings, as compared to U.S. prisons that likely have more conditioned air flow. As far as being environmentally conscious, Luzira likely does not use renewable energy sources, such as solar power. However, Luzira you mentioned the university program for inmates in partnership with MUBS. At the MUBS graduation, a pamphlet noted that MUBS is going to be adding a major for Science of Renewable Energy, including education about environmentally sustainable development. Inmates mentioned that they are currently limited to one area of study while at Luzira- Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management- and a second option could be Renewable Energy, if and when MUBS is able to expand their offerings at Luzira.

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  3. To touch on the work and pay of the prisoners, I don't think it is an example of exploitation. Inmates that have been charged with crimes and are no longer awaiting trial are serving out their punishment for their actions. Working to better the facilities or their own traits seems like a reasonable expectation and they are able to make some money to save up or use at their discretion. That amount of pay being small makes sense because it is still a way to get money, but it's not a lot of money because that is not the purpose behind the work. The purpose is to learn how to better contribute to society and reflect on their crimes, so small wages I think balance those aspects well.

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  4. Hi, thank you for your reflection and summary, Emma. This prison visit was a lot different than I was expecting, and they made it seem as if they were doing really well in regards to how they treated their prisoners and the general environment of their prison. I think, for your last question, that the fact that some are there without a trial is egregious. I think it enables a lot of corruption as the police can simply arrest someone and they can basically serve time and sentence without ever being tried and convicted. I think this is a human rights abuse, and like we talked about at the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, it is impossible to have sustainable development when there are human rights abuses. I think the way a country treats its vulnerable populations reveals a lot about it, and the prison population is certainly vulnerable.

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    1. That's a good point Sarah-Rose. The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative spoke a lot about fighting for bail and trials before the person is put into prison. The man who runs the health clinic at the prison was telling me that he was in jail because he had simply talked to a man on the phone the day he was killed. The man was in a different city than Kampala but yet he is still in jail and allowed no bail or bail he cannot afford. I'm sure many other prisoners are suffering this same injustice, which really magnifies the importance of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative's work.

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  5. Hey Emma, this is an amazing perspective on everything that we saw! I thought that the sign in the office about crushing the crime not the criminal was really important. I appreciated how they really focused on bettering themselves to move on from their crime instead of in the United States they focus on accepting your crime. I do however, have an issue with the fact that many of the prisoners haven't even had their first trial yet and are still being held there because it is hard to better yourself and move forward when you haven't done anything wrong in the first place and would completely uproot your life and family. For those who are there though it is important that they are earning even just a little bit because it builds a structure and routine in their life the emphasizes the value of work and positive contributions to society that offers.

    Another thing that I really appreciated in the prison is how they partnered with MUBS so that even if a prisoner is released early they can still continue to advance in their education instead of being cut short. I do wonder about the torture and abuse they talked about in the Human Rights visit though and how accurate of a representation our visit was.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Focusing on the relationship between prisoners and guards, I find that concept extremely interesting. Since there are over 3,000 prisoners and still only 300 guards, the ratio of guards to prisoners is extremely small. This creates an issue of are the guards able to enforce a situation when they are out numbered? Throughout our time touring the prison, I noticed that the guards were only located at entry points/gates within the walls of the prison which would allow the prisoners to freely do what they want in the open court areas. Since the guards are not constantly around to watch the open areas, the prisoners themselves could potentially have disagreements and fights within each other leading to the idea of abuse/torture. Not saying that the guards could not also contribute to the abuse/torture, but the location of where they were placed proved to be very unlikely.

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    1. Although the guards are only positioned at the entry points and gates, do you think they would conduct torture or abuse somewhere private? Or do you think they would make an example out of someone who disobeyed? The torture and abuse may also be carried out by different guards than the ones we saw.

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  7. I was kind of in awe when touring the prison. Like you mentioned, I was surprised at how well the prisoners were treated and amazed at how we were able to walk around freely among them. I believe that prisoners should still be treated as humans, and so I have respect for this. In regards to the question about paying the prisoners, I think that prison labor is deplorable if the prisoners aren't paid well. I think that as long as the prisoners are paid as much as they would outside of the prison, then it's okay. I think it's a great way to teach job skills in order to have the prisoners prepared for the work force upon release, and also help to build up some money for their families or themselves.

    I have issues with people being imprisoned without ever receiving a free trial. It seems so unfair that a person may have to spend time in prison for something they may not have done. Yes, the conditions of the prison were bearable compared to American prisons, but they are still confided and separated from the rest of society. Like Sheila talked about at the Foundation for Hunan Rights Initiative, a country cannot reach sustainability when it's citizens are treated unjustly.

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  8. Great summary Emma! To answer your question about the torture and abuse in the prison I think that it definitely occurs. One reason why I think this is because throughout the whole tour of the prison I felt like everything was staged. The reason I felt this way was because every time we asked a question to the prisoners about what it was like inside the jail the questions had to be accepted by the guards or the headmaster. Another reason why I think torture occurs is because we didn’t get to see all of the jail. For instance we didn’t get to see what their cells look like and we didn’t get to see the women’s ward.

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  9. Awesome post, Emma. You pose some great questions. Much like in the US, it sounds like the prisoners are being paid very little for their work. While the work does provide effective vocational training in a variety of fields, it seems to be exploitative because of the limited pay. I would be curious to see how much their wages are worth in the Ugandan economy, relative to how much prisoners' wages in the US are worth in ours. While production of goods can be beneficial to the economy, I do not think the wages the prisoners are paid allow the prison to be economically sustainable. Further, I don't think it's best practice to put the prisoners to work, contrary to what the head officer said. To address the question of torture and abuse, I found the prisoners' behavior to be quite bizarre. It was odd that they were so well-behaved in the yard as we walked through, and I found the guards' behavior to be even more suspicious. There were rooms that we were directed away from, computers in the computer lab that were not connected to anything, and parts of the prison that were not toured altogether. I think that we did not get the whole story at Luzira Prison, but it isn't safe to make assumptions until we have more information.

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