Life after Prison: Authorities call for establishment of re-integration, counselling centers for former inmates

GULU – Margaret Orik Obonyo, the Aswa Region Prison Commander has called on the various stakeholders to establish a re-integration and counselling facility to help former inmates adapt to life after prison upon completion of their sentences.

Upon completion of prison sentences, former inmates normally go straight to their respective homes without any psychological and psychosocial support.

This, Orik says, jail is traumatic and needs to be addressed in a center through which one commutes from their respective homes as they continue to interact with their fellow inmates as they carry on with practice of the life skills they would attain while serving their sentences.

“We normally train our inmates with various life skills ranging from tailoring, brick laying and concrete practice, carpentry and joinery, salon and hairdressing among others. If they could be supported and a center or centers established are for them, they could continue with practicing their various skills and earn money as they continue with their re-integration into their various communities,” Orik proposes.

Douglas Peter Okello, the LCV Chairperson of Omoro District conquers with Orik but says for the idea to be effective, the centers will need to be established at district levels so that distances and others costs attached to the commuting to a center for example in Gulu City would be minimized.

Okello says, the result of the lack of counselling and psychological preparation of the former inmates into the community in most times results to either suicide or further crimes committed by the former.

“We have had numerous cases of former inmates committing suicide while others engage in criminal activities which is majorly as a result of lack of mindset change among others. This according to our findings, is because the former inmates are normally bitter with the members of the community who could have participated in them being jailed,” Okello says.

According to Okello, such a center could turn out to be a great center for entrepreneurial activities based on the skills the inmates have acquired during their time in prison but also as a center for community transformation. Some of the inmates can be trained to become crime preventers since they have experiences to share as a result of being in prison.

Brian Opio, a former prisoner, who served and completed his sentence says, sometimes he is raged with anger from the fact that his life has probably been destroyed and can’t be recovered which sometimes brings in the temptation of going back to the criminal life that took him to prison.

Opio says, despite having attained skills in carpentry and joinery, the lack of capital has also greatly affected him in establishing a workshop to support himself.

“Society often looks at me as a criminal and for this reason, no one is willing to financially support me to put up a carpentry workshop. So, putting up a center where we can continue to practice our skills as we earn money from it could help fund dreamers like me who can’t kick-start life after spending more than three years in prison,” Opio says.

Gulu Central Government Prison has a total of 146 female inmates and over 1400 male inmates.

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