The work Product of Prison carries out is quite varied. In addition to the various careers and reintegration courses, and the vocation skills training, we have some more creative outlets for prisoners to engage in. Some of these are coordinated through partner organisations, such a Breakdance Project Uganda and African Yoga Alliance. Others are quite straightforward but provide a crucial outlet for the inmates, and a way to engage in our work.
We regularly produce our Prison Wall newspaper, composed of articles, poems, and general musings from inmates all across Uganda. Prisoners are invited to contribute to this work, and several pieces are curated for each publication, which is printed on a large sheet of paper and displayed in each prison. This not only gives prisoners a sense of pride to see their work in print, but it also lets prisoners hear stories and words of encouragement from those in other parts of the country. It provides a reassurance that they are not enduring their sentence alone and a sense of solidarity with prisoners.
We also present the Officer in Charge (OC) and Welfare Officer with a copy of the Prison Wall newspaper, which helps strengthen our positive working relationship and helps them to hear from the prisoners themselves how they are rehabilitating.
It is through the success of this programme that we will, over the coming weeks and months, be regularly sharing some notable stories, poems and articles from Ugandan prisoners. You will find yourself gaining a unique and sometimes surprising insight into their experience of life behind prison walls.
Please note that for prisoners’ own protection, names are changed, and that as per prison policy, anything written in prison must be vetted by prison staff before leaving prison.
In our first online instalment of the Prison Wall, in the form of this “Insights from Inmates” blog, we wanted to share with you the contributions of “W.D.”.
“W. D.” (Kigo Prison) – The first day in Kigo Prison
On day one it doesn’t matter how you came, which way you took or why you have come to Kigo Prison. All this doesn’t change anything for the Kigo administration.
The moment you step out of the means which brought you, in pairs with a handcuff on your wrist, the first thing you see is a large wooden gate which makes you irritated before you even get inside. Then after the officer in charge of you confirms the number he has brought to be correct he lets you in the small gate into the big space between the wooden gate and the steel gate where you are ordered to squat in pairs. As a newcomer, there is actually nothing you can see around you as you are scared to death and only can see stars of all colours as you beg your ancestors to at least remember your presence at that moment.
The officer in charge of that corridor takes over and immediately orders you to remove each and everything you have in your pockets, starting with shoes and socks, slippers are not allowed inside the corridor and it’s a crime to wear them.
Searching is a must irrespective of age and size, you have to do as the officer orders, at first by raising up your hands in the air for easy reach so the officer can exercise his duties, all up to your private parts – through your entire body which really makes you remember your almighty God whom maybe you had forgotten before you were brought in.
When the officer in charge of the corridor is through with you, he opens the small steel gate and hands you over to the RPs who all along have been waiting for the newcomers, just outside the small steel gate clean in their yellow uniforms. They lead you to the reformation path which leads you to the Admission Ward which also happens to be the Disciplinary Ward and the RPs hand you over to the Police Ward No. 29. It’s the Police who hand you over to the doctor of the ward for the first cleaning up and a lesson on cleanliness in the ward. Then after the doctor’s lecture, he hands you again to the Police Ward for another lesson of rules and regulations governing that ward and the entire Boma (main enclosure) as well. This is to ascertain that you fit in with the present situation you have landed in. On day one you have to introduce yourself before the members of the ward, which you do while standing under the bright shining light and introduce yourself to members who you have passed.
Then later if you are lucky you will get a blanket to cover yourself for the night and if you were born unlucky you will go without.
Before you realise where you are the door bangs to let you know that it’s time for all of you to sleep and no more talking at all. That’s around 9pm which ends day one in desperation, but makes you learn something in your heart and makes you remember the crime you might have committed before you were brought to Kigo Prison – of course for rehabilitation and transformation: the reason why people are brought to Kigo Prison to become better citizens after their sentence.
That is day one.