My experience during Bangkok rules training was a very informative one, considering that the training was conducted by very experienced facilitators, Dr. Barbara Owen and Jo Barker who have vast knowledge backed by research on women prisoners, they were also experienced on adult learning techniques which made the participants active and engaged throughout the training period. The training was also conducted at three different venues, i.e; the Aetas Hotel (Bangkok), Krungsri hotel (Ayutthaya province) and finally at the TIJ offices in Bangkok, the different venues made the participants eager to learn since every time they moved to a new venue it’s like a new phase of training was starting again, it also assisted in breaking the monotony of one training venue as is tradition with most trainings.
The best part of the training was the study visit to the three correctional facilities across Thailand; it was such an enriching experience to how good correctional practices can be achieved through implementation of the Bangkok Rules, this really was a good point of contrast for the participants comparing to their facilities back in their countries and really encouraged and motivated the participants to go and put some of the good practices learnt during the visit into practice back in their home countries through implementation of the Bangkok rules. On coming back from the training in Bangkok, I identified Kakamega women prison as my pilot station where I was going to assist in implementing the Bangkok rules, through training on the rules and advising and checking for compliance with the rules.
Using the self-assessment work book given during the training I managed to identify areas that required attention and embarked on advising on how to increase compliance to them, the first thing though that I opted to do was to build the capacity of the correctional officers from the institution through training in order to introduce them aware of the rules so that they become part and own the implementation of the Bangkok rules, so far I have conducted two training sessions that has already covered 34 officers, their knowledge to the rules has been increased and attitude changed and now working towards increasing compliance to the rules.
One significant change is that the correctional officers in the institution now know that women commit crime due to a number of underlying factors, which include; history of violence, trauma and poverty among others, this therefore inform the kind of treatment plans and programs for the female prisoners while in prison, thus smooth reintegration into the society, there has been development of policy requiring the open (nonrestrictive)visitation during the normal visits, then the recording of the names of the children of female prisoners not accompanying their mothers and their guardianship, inmates are given information on prison rules and regulations on admissions and a summary of the rules conspicuously posted in frequently used areas by the prisoners, we have also developed a comprehensive medical examination form that is very comprehensive and compliant to the rules and also policy on the way searches should conducted, view this as a step in the right direction towards increasing compliance to the Bangkok Rules. TIJ has been very supportive of my training by making available copies of the Bangkok Rules, which I issue to participants for reference during and after the training, PRI also provided copies of the Mandela Rule since the Bangkok Rules supplement the Mandela Rules making the training and understanding of the Rules very practical.
As a human rights officer/trainer and also an experienced correctional officer, increasing compliance to the United Nations rules on treatment of women prisoners and non-custodial measures (The Bangkok Rules) will enhance professionalism in the Kenya correctional system and also increase and encourage good correctional practices for social change.
Maurice Denyys Odhiambo
Human Rights Officer/Trainer in Kenya
Participant of TIJ’s Bangkok Rules Training 2016