By ELIAS LARI
PRISONS were once viewed as places lawbreakers are sent to serve their time. For many prisoners the punishment is harsh and there is not enough food to go around.
But these days, this idea of what prison life is like is slowly changing. Instead of labeling all prisoners as goners and people beyond redemption, prisons have been coming around to the idea of rehabilitating and helping people in jails so that they can successfully integrate back into society.
Barawagi jail in Chimbu is one out of the many jails in the country that is looking at helping prisoners to change by conducting several rehabilitation programmes for its 277prisoners and remandees.
The jail management is keen and looking at ways to change each and every individual despite their crime. It has introduced programes that will give prisoners life skills they can use to look after themselves after they complete their terms. These include church programs, education, farming, Bible literacy, prisoners helping prisoners courses and sports.
Participants in the Bible literacy programmes are sent to Bible college and may end up with certificates in pastoral ministry.
The jail management believes that although lawbreakers may be perceived as difficult to change, all is possible with God.
In education, prisoners are continuing their education through distance education or by attending normal classes in a classroom. So far two students have graduated with the Diploma in Teaching at the Simbu Teachers College (STC).
Some are also undertaking studies at the Don Bosco Technical Institute while others are studying at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) open campus in Kundiawa with the help of the jail administration.
When it comes to farming, the introduction of skills to prisoners means that the jail only pays for store goods. Food crops like sweet potato, vegetables, peanut, corn, cucumber and broccoli all come from Barawagi’s farming programme. The jail also sells its surplus food crops to the local markets.
A recent farming module the jail is undertaking is the Chinese upland rice project. It is touted by the Mt Hagen agricultural college to be the first jail in the country to plant, harvest and consume its own rice.
This work of self-sufficiency is saving the jail from spending thousands of kina on rice annually. The upland rice project is funded by the governments of China and Papua New Guinea under which the jail supports the national government’s vision to promote institutional rice in the country. The prisoners helping prisoners programme is also helpful to prisoners to support their colleagues and provide encouragement.
For sports, the jail has received new basketballs and had its court recently renovated by the Bank of South Pacific (BSP).
There are programmes that also teach leadership and how prisoners can return to their respective communities and become agents of change in those settings, thus benefitting their families, communities, provinces and country.
Chimbu MPs have been very supportive of these programmes and have provided funding, vehicles, store goods, mattress and stuff that the jail might needs for rehabilitation.
Jail commander, Supt Michael Auirap, says the idea of running the rehabilitation programme is to help and individual prisoners leave the jail as a changed person. He says people start to think differently and for the better through life changing programmes and counseling.
“We can see them as dangerous in our communities but that is not the right mentality. Lawbreakers were born from parents, same as us. They were loved, cared and fed to become someone special but along the way they made mistakes to choose a wrong direction,” Auirap said.
He said dangerous animals such as crocodiles, venomous snakes, lions or tigers can be tamed. For humans, who were at a much higher level of intellect to animals, change was definitely possible, he said.
“That is the same principle, if we tame prisoners with these programmes they will go out as very changed persons without thinking of repeating the same mistakes.”
By ELIAS LARI