An evaluation of the reabilitation and renteigration of ex- convicts at Achor Valley Niko Hope House, Ruiru Kenya
Kenya’s prison population of over 41,000 inmates is made up of convicts on remand and those sentenced to serve time resulting in severe congestion. While the level of crime is on the rise, no new prisons have been built since independence to cater for the many offenders. Prisoners released through the annual presidential amnesty have been known to re-offend and find their way back into jail; while magistrates have been blamed for contributing to the congestion by handing harsh sentences to petty offenders. Though the government is making steps to improve the penal system, society has come to accept crime as a way of life and choose not to get involved; rather blaming the situation on the rising levels of unemployment and poverty. This study sought to address the effects of post prison rehabilitation by conducting an evaluation of Achor Valley Niko Hope House in Ruiru, an institution which aims at assisting ex-convicts gain acceptance back into society following imprisonment. The study sought to determine the success levels of Achor in preventing re-offending; investigate ex-convicts attitude towards rehabilitation and examine society’s attitude towards rehabilitated offenders. The study was centered in Ruiru division and Mathare Valley where the centre’s operations and outreach programmes are based. The study was guided by behavioral and sociological theories that shed light on the question of rehabilitation of ex-convicts and the impact rehabilitation has on training them to be self reliant citizens within their communities. The study considered in particular the Behavioral and Exchange Theories, which question whether a change in the social behaviour of ex-convicts can be influenced through the use of rewards such as training, loans and a combination of economic and psychological needs 1 hirty ex-convicts who had graduated from an average eighteen-month stay at Achor were interviewed. All respondents were adults drawn from all areas of the country. Each respondent had at least one child or dependant in their care. All but one respondent, respectively, had received some form of education and were employed. Achor’s level of success in preventing re-offending, based on the evaluation conducted, was found to be high, as only seven Achor graduates had re-offended. The high success rate was attributed to the compulsory bible course taught to all ex-convicts at Achor for their spiritual growth. In addition to the skills-training in areas such as carpentry, masonry, farming, handicrafts, dressmaking and tailoring, the support received after training, were also some of the contributing factors to the high success level. The ex-convicts’ attitude toward reintegration following rehabilitation was also seen as positive due to the change in their lives coupled with the range of training and support which they had received from Achor. Though areas like individual and material support were found to be wanting, graduates were in no doubt that the training at Achor had positively affected their lives.^ Society’s attitude towards rehabilitated ex-convicts was rated as positive in that Achor graduates are no longer perceived as dangerous. No hostility from the community was recorded by the ex-convicts or key informants. The acceptance of ex-convicts back into the community, the support shown in the ex-convicts’ businesses, the knowledge of the work Achor is involved in and the participation of the community surrounding Achor in its activities were indicators of the acceptance by the community towards rehabilitation of ex-convicts. The following policy recommendations were made in light of the findings of this study. First, there is need for more awareness-creation around Achor and similar institutions to enable prisons act as referral points in rehabilitating ex-convicts. Second, there is need ior trained counsellors in Achor to deal with the ex-convicts’ varied psychological needs. On areas of further research, the effects of Post-Prison rehabilitation should be studied in detail and results fonvarded to the public and private sectors for the running and building of such institutions, the aim of which would be to reduce prison congestion and ultimately the high incidence of crime in the country.