Finding new directions in Bomana

Weekender

The peace at Bomana does not mean that normal prison life and enforcement does not exist.
Gate 24 is still there were virginity is lost; you ask an inmate to explain what I mean by losing one’s virginity.
Brick walls are still there and the bottom line – it’s a prison, do not find ways to come here. Live a useful life and avoid any anti-social behaviour and socialisation that may lead you astray and into prison.

Revival crusade inside the main prison compound

Following the peace ceremony and under the leadership of Commander (Kiddy) Keko, the church board of the main prison which I served as secretary hosted a three-night crusade in the no-go zone.
It’s a very high security area – no civilians are allowed in the night setting. Prisoners under normal circumstances are not allowed to come out once gates are locked. By the way the prison board is made up of all denominations. We in prison see no boundaries between church doctrines – it’s about God and change.
The prison board convened and following a short prayer settled on Oct 17-19, 2013 as the date for the crusade. The board also considered various themes to capture a message that would enhance and change lives. We settled for scriptures in Romans 12:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 5:17.
To change, one has to change his or her thinking and mindset as the mind is the greatest battle field. Renewing of the mind is a daily thing as our actions are reflections of our thoughts.
We had a guest speaker and congregation from the Mahuru COC Church that shared on the theme “Changing Mindsets and Finding a new way of Living.” This led to 100 inmates going forth to giving their lives to Christ after the alter call was made on the first night.
And on the second night almost the entire prison stood up when the altar call was made. Everyone said the sinner’s prayer and some recommitted themselves to serving God by carrying the gospel inside the prison.
Following that crusade we had another with Pastor Tony Kemo from Seventh-Day Adventist Church as the guest of honour and that saw the baptism of 60 inmates at the end of October 2013.
One outstanding crusade was held in September 2014, on the prison basketball court. During the crusade there was a heavy downpour and to make matters worse, we had a power blackout and 600-plus prisoners were out from the cells and were near Gate 24 . Everyone stood still in unison, prayed and sang in total darkness for an hour and half. The preacher ranted the word with such velocity and power that the place shook. Everyone was calm and collected. After the delivery of the message, all inmates moved in orderly fashion into their cells without an incident. I saw a miracle; people had changed and were changing their attitudes.
The prison also hosted a candle night in December of 2014; it was massive and attended by many civilians without a hitch.

40th anniversary celebrations

The year 2015 was the 40th Independence anniversary of the country. A committee was established comprising of inmates and correctional officers and tasked to coordinate the programme. Each region was to showcase their culture to mark the occasion. Everyone in the prison from the high risks, minimum, juvenile and female wings were tasked to consult with their relatives and friends.
Preparations went according to plan and a successful independence celebration was hosted inside the prison. The guest of honour was Justice Panuel Mogish who has had a close association with the Bomana Prison over many years.
The 40th Independence celebration was described as massive, the first and the last for the prison. It was described as the best and well organised with participation from both the public and the inmates.
During the celebration, to mark the independence and to set a new beginning for the Bomana, a bolt cutter used over the years to escape from prison along with other accessories, were surrender before Commander Keko and Justice Mogish.
The surrender of the implements meant the end of high profile jail break-outs. In all these I worked behind the scenes to ensure that we achieved that for the good of the prison and the image of those involved as part of Goilala for Jesus Ministry.
I for one applaud the decision of Peto Kippy, Peter Plesman, Benjamin Moses and Ruddy Haiveta and other regional leaders for achieving a huge milestone in Bomana Prison’s history.
Many such programmes are now changing the prison environment at Bomana, thanks to the commanding officer and his hard working officers. Many people do not see the real value and change that are happening around them and yet continue to spread false and misleading information to the public through the media.

Way forward: Rehabilitation and the gospel

To change attitudes and behaviour in a short period of time is not an easy task. Psychologists would attest that it is sometimes hard to change addictions, behaviours and attitudes as addictions build over time and become intricate. They become part of you and people see you with those traits.
Following the revival many inmates have been out in settlements in NCD and in rural areas of Central and Gulf conducting revival crusades under the Inmate Out-mate Rehabilitation programme spearhead by two devoted Christian leaders in the institution – Pastor and Chaplin Sergeant Pilai Lani and Pastor Corporal Greg Teine who are ably supported by Elder Ruben Alu from Pacific Adventist University.
Many of these programmes also include crime awareness and prevention activities where inmates appeal to youths on living worthwhile lives and not find a path into the prison.
Rehabilitation through running programmes based on the Word of God can change a person. Unfortunately these programmes have been hampered by the leave of absence (LOA) ban issued by the Prime Minister.
Rehabilitation is an important part of the prison management system to assist prisoners to re-integrate and key to helping them to live useful lives. It must be holistic and cover spiritual, mental and physical needs.
Outreaches and outside engagements are tools that help change the prisoners and should be encouraged. LOA is an important tool that facilitates the rehabilitation work of correctional officers.

Conclusion

I have served five years at the maximum security unit in hard labour and three years at the low security unit. I have seen and witnessed great upheavals and change since 2011. The year 2013 was the peak period of all major prison occurrences with the escape of the late William Kapris and his company.
Then we saw peace and revival that occurred thereafter with the appointment of Haraha Kiddy Keko as commanding officer of the Bomana Prison.
I take it that if we are serious about progress and development, we must appoint the right people to positions of authority and of course based on merit and experience. At Bomana, the public has generalised and raised critical issues about the performance of correctional officers and their dealings with inmates.
Most of what the public hear are rumours. If you look at realities and real change and performance thus far, most of what is generated by rumour mongers is based on speculation. Bomana has really changed over the last five years.
The LOA ban for example is an abuse of authority, and does not reflect the realities on the ground. Facts have been distorted to meet an end. Many programmes that effect change have been stalled.
Bomana’s commanding officer and officers are shining examples for true rehabilitation and progress. They are dedicated to their tasks and must be rewarded accordingly. They must be allowed to do their jobs without too much interference.

  • The author is an inmate at the Bomana’s low security unit. He wrote this and previous articles to provide news and information to the public under the Human Development Institute’s (HDI) rehabilitation training programme.

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