Holistic Support to Prisoners and Victim’s Welfare
Holistic Support to prisoners and victim’s welfare is another pillar of the program which the organization has been undertaking since its conception to enhance livelihood of prisoners. Low standard of service and poor access to justice service are the major challenges that necessitated the intervention. In addressing the scenario, JFA-PFE’s has been focusing on three major areas of support. The first is facilitating Rehabilitation & Reintegration of Prisoners and also addressing victim’s welfare; the secondly is support standardizing of prisons to improve livelihood of prisoners; and the last is faciliatating Legal Aid support for prisoners.
Prisoners Rehabilitation and Reintegration – Justice for All-Prison Fellowship Ethiopia (JFA-PFE) has been advocating for effective prisoners’ rehabilitation and for successful reintegration of ex-prisoners with the mainstream society after release since it embarked upon its intervention on Prison Reform Advocacy in 1992. It is well known that poor reintegration is associated with poor rehabilitation of prisoners, inadequate economic independence of ex-prisoners and poor restoration of relationship of the offender with the victims and the society at large. Among the efforts made in this area are:
- awareness creation and lobbying of Justice sector and other relevant institutions’ officials with an eye to developing relevant policies , procedures and manuals
- Advocate for establishment of remand homes at federal and regional states;
- Availing vocational training and the complimentary materials and machineries especially for youth offenders and women prisoners, facilitating formal education opportunities and other psycho-social support as a means of rehabilitation of young offenders and other prisoners, etc.
- Counseling and health related supports (health campaigns by volunteers domestic and foreign medical personnel and with our resources, HIV/AIDS Protection and Control programs, and medical support to Mentally ill prisoners)
Recently, it is supporting one of the federal government’s efforts to develop a system of reintegrating of prisoners back into society. Prisoners’ rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-prisoners is an explicit goal for the justice sector laid out in the country’s Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) and aligns with other government’s initiatives aimed at increasing public satisfaction with the formal justice system. As comprehensive reintegration systems are a relatively new reform for criminal justice systems, JFA-PFE has been working with Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ), Harvard Kennedy School, to explore how research and indicator development can help generate approaches to reintegration that comport with local ambitions and capacity.
On top of that, JFA-PFE has been working in reconciliation of offenders and victims before or up on release of ex-prisoners so that with other supports (advocacy for access to micro finance institutions for ex-prisoners and social cohesion) ex-prisoners are reintegrated with less difficulty with the mainstream society than it would have been otherwise. In this regard JFA-PFE is working in collaboration and partnership with like-minded NGOs, Prison Administration and other relevant government offices.
Support for Standardization of Prisons: focuses on setting improved standards of services to prisoners that helps to improve livelihood of prisoners . Due to various reasons, most prisons are not equipped with standard facilities and this situation triggered the intervention to support prison administrations in transforming prison environment to meet the international minimum standards. Here, ranges of activities come into play towards providing supports to improve inmates’ care in correctional centers. JFA-PFE’s mainly focuses on vulnerable women inmates and their children who are forced to remain in prisons with their parents. And also, the organization is planning to address victim’s welfare.
Legal Aid support: focuses on facilitating easy access to justice by prisoners. In their stay in prison. Prisoners do raise different legal issues in relation to their criminal cases such as statement of defense, appeal, closing statement, opinion of sentence, petition for cassation, asking for bail, and other civil issues such as to delegate someone to administer their property or their business or to enter contract with individuals who are outside prison. Since they are in prison they might not have any means of income to pay for a lawyer and get advice. So, the need for legal aid service is of no question. Further, in the criminal justice system, prompt access to, and contact with a lawyer is one of the foremost protections against abuse of human rights. It is also recognition of the prisoner’s existence as a legal entity in his or her own right. Accordingly, to address the need of legal aid in the prison, JFA-PFE devised a strategy of introducing a comprehensive and sustainable legal aid scheme by constructing a model center, availing the facility, building awareness on the facilitation of legal aid service in prisons by paralegals from the trained elite prisoners themselves or by linking them with law faculty student volunteers in the vicinity.