The Sierra Leone Prisons Service and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, with support from the Justice Sector Development Programme (JSDP), are hosting an event to mark the close of the training programme in Counselling, Mental Health Awareness and Behavioral Change, at the Prisons Training School, Waterloo, on Friday 30th January 2009.
The training programme, which started from Monday 19th to Thursday 29th January 2009, was conducted for 30 health personnel selected from prisons around the country, in order to support the establishment of prisoner rehabilitation programmes within all prisons. Selected personnel were trained in various methodologies including, counselling techniques, identification of signs and symptoms of psychiatric disorder; and problem solving and relapse-prevention strategies.
Through the training, prison staffs were equipped to assist in counselling prisoners to address mental health, drugs, alcohol, anger, or violence. This would reduce recidivism, which is the incidence of prisoners being released, re-offending and returning to prison. In addition, the training would enhance inmate skills and promote community reintegration. In Sierra Leone, trauma, as a result of the eleven year conflict, coupled with a lack of employment opportunities, has affected many in the communities, creating behavioral problems. Increasing numbers of young people are coming in conflict with the law and ultimately being incarcerated.
They generally come from low socio-economic background and are the most vulnerable. Furthermore, they have received little attention in this post conflict period, having little access to education, or rehabilitation programmes to correct their behavior, prior to release to their families and communities. Recognising the importance of overall effective prison management, JSDP, in its Inception Phase (March 2005 to June 2007), supported prisons with the provision of infrastructure, a Prisoner Classification System, a trial Prison Literacy Programme, support for the development of prison farms and training for one member of staff in Counselling. While the Department is currently in the process of introducing new management systems to provide a structured, coordinated approach to rehabilitation, further support is planned over the next two years.
“With support from the JSDP, the prisons organisational structure, management processes and systems, are in the process of changing from incarceration and punishment regimes, to that of corrections, so as to facilitate prison rehabilitation”, remarked the Acting Director of the Sierra Leone Prisons Service, Mr. Moses Showers.