“What do you do, at Nafisika Trust?”
A question that follows every time I tell someone I intern at the organization. After explaining to them what we do in detail, the response from most of them is “What! So you train actual inmates?” “Like you seriously work with inmates?” “Oh my God! What is it like?”
It is disheartening to know that in 2021 there is still stigma surrounding incarceration. To challenge this kind of perception, I explain to them that they are not different from us. From their looks, to their talk, they are just like us. They simply made mistakes but are now working on moving forward for the better.
The rate of recidivism is still high because once they complete serving their time and join the society, they get overwhelmed with the stigmatization and end up joining the same crowd of people they used to associate with. Finding new ground isn’t easy and most environments within the society are not welcoming at all.
Most employers are also hesitant to employ them upon learning of their incarceration not to mention that their employment options at this stage are already limited. This makes the chances of an employer hiring them less. Research by http://www.statista.com has it that more than 50,000 graduates come out of our Institutions of higher learning. With this kind of number some are rendered jobless due to the employment crisis in our nation. How then does an ex-inmate especially those with basic education level compete for jobs in the market with graduates who are also struggling to build a source of livelihood for themselves?
I then ask myself, why is this still happening in 2021 in a country ranked as one of the best in development in Africa? As a society we should be willing to give these transformed men and women a second chance. We should believe in them by encouraging them and creating enabling environments for them to start anew. We should make a stand and change the narrative in order to reduce the number of people who reoffend. Let us come up with forums that steer them in a direction where they can stand on their two feet. Occasional follow-up also encourages accountability.
Prison and life after prison, like any other major life experience, has the capacity to change a person in a variety of ways. These changes can be both beneficial and detrimental, and vary depending on an individual’s unique experience. What we take away from any situation largely depends on our mindset and prison is no different. As a society we need to create forums and spaces that are easily accessible to inmates in and out of prison. Their mental, physical, emotional and economic wellness is paramount. This will be a great and positive move towards reducing recidivism as most inmates will be able to make a change and rewrite their story.
My Nafisika Trust internship is very important. It is an eyeopener because I did not realize how this sector has been neglected until I started working here. It is my desire to see the community have more open conversations in regards to prisons, recidivism and the whole justice system. Not only has this internship helped me gain experience and increase my employability, it has also taught me and is still teaching me more than what I expected. It has built me as a person to be more sensitive to the needs of others especially inmates. I will be a defender of their rights because their plight needs to be known , addressed and acknowledged within the confines of correction and rehabilitation.
Written by Kinya Kirika,
Training and Development Intern|| NAFISIKA TRUST