Sunday, February 7, 2010

Passing Out Parade Speech at Prison Officers Course Class 1 of 2009 - Mahalapye, by the Minister of Justice Defence and Security

source: Republic of Botswana (6/2/10) TAUTONA TIMES no 1 of 2010
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity, Discipline and Delivery"


[Salutations]...Ladies and Gentlemen;

1. It gives me great honour and privilege to have been accorded this opportunity to address you on this occasion marking the end of your basic training as prison officers.

2. I believe you are all aware that the Botswana Prison service has just moved to the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security. This development came about as part of government restructuring process of placing related institutions under the same roof (ministry). As part of the Criminal Justice System, it was only prudent that the Department of Prisons is brought together with its sister departments in the justice and Security cluster of services.

3. I would like to congratulate the graduating class of 2009 for having chosen the Prison Service as your career. I believe that during the 6 (six) months you have been here , you have come to realize that prison duty is not the ordinary desk and file job a lot of people are used to, but rather interaction with human beings at all times. It evokes your passion and feelings because you deal with attitudes and sometimes corrupt and decayed behavioural tendencies, broken spirits, and hopelessness. It is a matter involving ones heart and soul, in a nut shell, it is a calling to assist rebuild humanity. It is fitting therefore that you did both theoretical and practical training to enable you to answer your call of duty.

4. As you graduate today, note that the government and the society in general are concerned about the escapes of prisoners from lawful custody that occur in some of our prisons. As it is often said, the efficiency of any prison system is judged by its ability to hold offenders safely until they have duly completed their time in custody. It is unfortunate to note that Botswana Prison Service has not been doing well in this area. To give an illustration, in 2007, 39 prisoners escaped from custody.

5. This figure was slightly reduced to 32 in 2008 .This reflects an average of 2 escapees per month. I am worried that there seems to be very little improvement to remedy this situation as the number of escapees swelled to 42 in 2009, working out to an average of 3 escapees per month.

6. Ladies and Gentlemen, when I addressed members of the Botswana Prison Service late last year, I advised against acts of indiscipline among which could facilitate the escape of prisoners. In the month of January in 2010 alone, ten (10) prisoners escaped from custody. This is indeed a disturbing scenario. It points to the fact that the Prison Service could be failing in its mandate. I have confidence however, that we will rise to the occasion.

7. Another area that you should pay special attention to is the humane treatment of offenders. Let me remind you that prisoners just like other citizens, are entitled to enjoy their fundamental human rights restricted as they may be. A positive contribution from your side towards the treatment of prisoners has a bearing on the good reputation of the Prison Service and a direct implication on Botswana's protection of Human Rights.

8. The humane treatment of prisoners must not be understood literally as only relating to the physical interaction with offenders, it should be understood to refer also to the efficiency of officers in handling prisoners complaints, requests, petitions, appeals and general upkeep.

9. Violation of their rights tarnishes the good reputation we have earned. My ministry shall preserve the stature our government enjoys in the international scene by taking decisive actions against those of you who may be found wanting in this regard. Batswana must have confidence in you and you can only make a good public impression if you demonstrate your worth by paying attention to detail and are alert at all time.

10. Prisons are security areas and confidentiality of information on the administration of the Prison Service is very crucial. There have been occasions in which information on certain aspects of the Prison Service leaked to the media and public at large. Such information could not have reached the public without being released by Prison Officers.

11. While I acknowledge that where there are many people working together, there is bound to be differences of opinions and perceptions, it will be improper for those aggrieved to take their grievances to the public before exhausting departmental complaint procedures.

12. The completion of your training programme today marks the beginning of your journey to the realities of life and problems associated with the work environment. You will face a number of challenges including staff shortage, inadequate staff accommodation, working in remote areas, and overcrowding in prisons, you will meet and work with some of the most dangerous criminals.

13. Ladies and Gentlemen, Prisons are no longer restricted to confinement but also rehabilitation. You can only feel proud to be associated with the repentance of an offender from crime if you were actively involved in their transformation. As you are by now fully aware, our prisons are situated in major villages and towns, and only three (3) are situated in areas that are considered remote. These are Bainesdrift in Bobirwa Sub District, Boro in Northwest District Council and Tshane in Kgalagadi District.

14. The policy is to post officers to areas of need and not on the basis of the interest of officers. Considerations are always made to rotate officers after a period of time to accord them opportunities to experience the various environmental conditions under which certain prisons operate. It is a concern to note that those officers who happen to have been posted in towns and villages where much of the living conditions are classified as better, resist to be transferred to remote areas citing marriage or poor health as grounds to challenge their transfers.

15. If these reasons could be allowed to insulate officers against transfers, then it would mean that those posted to remote areas would never have opportunities to work in towns or less remote areas. I urge and encourage you to accept posting to any area as an indication of your commitment to serve the Botswana Prison Service and your nation. Your acceptance should be guided by the exigencies of the service and not personal gains.

16. Ladies and Gentlemen, before I conclude my address, let me indicate that HIV/AIDS scourge remains a national challenge. We have been fighting the war against the scourge for over two and half decades now and the war has not been won or lost yet. This is a war that we have to win. It saddens me to observe our people, especially the young, who are still sexually active die from the disease. I therefore encourage you to visit health facilities so that you know your status. Government has provided facilities and programmes to address the problem. Knowledge of your health especially HIV/AIDS status provides opportunities for adoption of strategies to safe guard yourselves from being infected or acquire life sustaining remedies should the need arise.

17. The second ideal advice to observe is to stick to the basics of abstinence from sexual relations until marriage. You are young officers who still have opportunities to look around for the right partners. This is a challenge that we must overcome, and if we can overcome it, then we will win in preventing new infections. You should be proud of your commitment to HIV free Botswana.

18. Let me once again appreciate that as you leave the College to face realities of life, you will be officers who are fully conversant with the mandate of the Prison Service. Some of you joined the Prison Services already armed with professional skills in various fields of training. I urge you in the course of rehabilitation programmes to impart such skills to prisoners with a purpose to develop them to be able to sustain their lives outside the prison environment.

19. I am confident that as you graduate today and take the oath of allegiance to the Prison Service you will be committing yourselves to provide quality service to the expectations of Batswana. I understand you have been actively involved in charity work, I urge you to continue with the good spirit and participate in community activities, even at your duty stations, for we have to be together as a nation to achieve all the seven pillars of 2016.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

20. May I now officially present to you, the graduates of the Prison Officers Course Class 1 of 2009, and wish them all the success in their new career. Thank you.

1 comment:

badubianto said...

prison servives need to be improved to benefit prisoners themselves. its time to put in place a well coordinated rehabilitation by professionals like social workers and psychologists. vocational rehab on its own does not build a person. community based alternatives to incaceration need to be improved to include family intervetions through councelling and therapy.