Rehabilitation in Malawi prisons - Perceptions of Inmates and Officers

Published: 01-10-2020| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/rwh6bbcnb2.1
Samson Kajawo


It is data gathered from a descriptive study which involved two facilities, one young offenders' centre and one adults' prison in Malawi in Africa. The aim was to find out particularly from prison inmates their views on the so-called rehabilitation programmes and activities in their facilities. There is very little information available on the client-centeredness of rehabilitation programmes provided in prisons, and none for Malawi. Kaufman’s Reform Theory of Punishment ideas might seem to be out-dated since were conceptualised decades ago, but they could still be relevant in an African context since the majority of reformation and rehabilitation programmes are just developing. Kaufman addresses three informative questions and also has policy implications generally on client-centeredness of the programmes: Are the rehabilitation programmes humane in their nature? Who decides for a particular rehabilitation option of an offender? Are coercion and manipulation used in allocating offenders in rehabilitation programmes? This study sought to analyse the extent to which rehabilitation programmes in Malawi prisons were client-centred using Kaufman (1960)’s ideas. Two separate semi-structured questionnaires were used for inmates and officers respectively. Ethical procedures were duly observed. Permission was initially obtained from the Chief Commissioner of Prisons and officers’ in-charge of the two prisons to conduct this study in those facilities. Both prison inmates and staff involved in this study were also provided with an in-depth initial briefing regarding the purpose, procedure and ethical issues of the current study. They were informed that they had the right to participate or not, or stop participating at any time during the study. On every questionnaire, there was a space where respondents needed to indicate their consent to participate on a voluntary basis and anonymously. The keys findings were that the rehabilitation programming in these two prison facilities was generally not client-centred since the basic tenets as provided by Kaufman were not visible. The study found that most respondents viewed rehabilitation activities in these facilities as coercive and manipulative since offenders were generally not engaged enough in the choices of their rehabilitation programmes, especially at the young offenders’ facility. Many activities which were labelled ‘rehabilitation programmes’ were in essence not qualifying as such because of the inhumane element in them. The rehabilitation programmes were run haphazardly without proper planning and resources; hence the programme did not have proper structures and qualified personnel for case management, psychological and other rehabilitation services.