Penal Reform International (PRI) mourns the death of John William Nyoka, Board member, who passed away yesterday on 3 February 2021 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
John Nyoka had faithfully served PRI’s Board since 2016, bringing a passion for prison reform in Africa following a long career in the prison service and later as a founder of an NGO dedicated to rehabilitation of people in prison.
John served as a civil servant for decades in the Tanzanian and Namibian prison services. He joined the Prison Service of Tanzania in 1965 and worked within different roles, attaining the rank of Deputy Commissioner and gaining wide inspectorate experience.
From 1994 to 2011 he was seconded to the Namibian Government as a special advisor to restructure the Apartheid South West African Prison Service.
Having worked with Namibian Correctional Service for seventeen years (1994-2011) he retired from public service and founded a Non-Governmental Organisation, Inmate Rehabilitation and Welfare Services – Tanzania (IRaWS-T), heading it as its Executive Director. The NGO was an umbrella organisation of retired Commissioners of Prisons, bringing the weighty voices of people who have leadership experience in the prison system to reform efforts. John also served as a Board Member of the Tanzania National Parole Board and the Mzinga Corporation.
Until recently, John remained a commentator on penal reform issues, frequently writing for Tanzania’s national newspaper, The Daily News. John always shared his column with us, reiterating his wish to challenge the public mindset on issues such as the death penalty. He spoke publicly –with courage – of his despair at the role of prison officers in carrying out the death sentence.
We are mourning the death of John William Nyoka and will remember him as a courageous and respected penal reformer and valued Board member. We wish to convey our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.
Dirk van Zyl Smit