‘How should we conduct body searches on women that keeps their dignity yet enables us to find any hidden disallowed objects?
‘How can we best support our women prisoners to earn an income when they are released?
‘Our superiors need to know about the Bangkok Rules! How can we get their support to put the Rules into practice?’
These were just some of the questions that 23 Ugandan women prison officers and three community service officers put to PRI and FHRI during a two-day training on the UN Bangkok Rules in Kampala last week.
The prison officers came from some of the 110 prisons in Uganda that hold convicted and pre-trial female prisoners, including the ten prisons exclusively for women, from all regions of the country. The officers’ roles ranged from security of the prison, to providing counselling, to supporting the women with reintegration on release. The community service officers support women offenders who have been given a community service order as an alternative to imprisonment.
The training was delivered by PRI and the Ugandan NGO, Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI). In 2014-15, FHRI and PRI together conducted a survey on the situation of women prisoners in Uganda. Following the launch of the survey report, the Ugandan Prison Service asked for support in implementing the report’s recommendations, with training for its prison staff as a first step. This was the first ever such training of women prison staff specifically on the Bangkok Rules in East Africa.
The training both drew on the needs identified by this joint research and, as all the participants deal with the realities of women prisoners on a daily basis, looked at the practical implications of implementing the UN Bangkok Rules in Uganda’s prisons, especially where there is limited resources and budget.
Topics covered included:
- how sentencers, the prison system and individual personnel can respond to the link between women prisoners and violence and abuse of women, prior to prison, in prison and on release. This was particularly pertinent as last year’s research by PRI and FHRI revealed that 20 per cent of women prisoners had been convicted of the manslaughter or murder of their husband/partner/male member of their family, relatively high compared to other countries surveyed
- how to provide healthcare to women prisoners that recognises their particular physical and mental health needs. A higher percentage of Uganda’s women prisoners are HIV-positive compared to male prisoners and the general population, for example
- how to provide suitable vocational training to the women so that they can earn an income on release. Our research showed that the most common reasons women committed their offences was to support their family and for financial/poverty-related reasons.
Other topics included safety and security, children living with their imprisoned mothers, and non-custodial sanctions for women offenders.
Find out more about our work with women prisoners and the UN Bangkok Rules in East Africa
Read the report: Who are women prisoners? Survey results from Uganda