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November 2007: International Partners

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RODI-Kenya Prison Rehabilitation Program

By Eliud Ngunjiri, Director
Resources Oriented Development Initiatives


            RODI-Kenya is a Kenyan development organization that uses a Resources Oriented Development Approach (RODA) in development. This approach is different from the commonly used one which mainly focuses on people’s problems rather than the resources they are endowed with, thereby causing more harm than good. For example, when an NGO enters into a new community and inquires about their problems, the latter gives a long list of real and imaginary problems in order to prove that they are needy and indeed want support from the NGO. Their problems are further compounded by the fact that the NGOs may only address one or two of the many problems they have listed. The community gets overwhelmed by the long list of problems as this reminds them of their poverty and leaves them discouraged and devastated.
            The RODA approach, on the other hand, enables communities to identify, mobilize and utilize their own resources to improve their livelihood. This approach reminds the communities of their untapped or under-utilized resources and opportunities, and thus it makes the communities view the future with hope. It reminds them of their wealth.

The Main Target Beneficiaries

            RODI-Kenya’s main target beneficiaries are the prisoners. RODI-Kenya firmly believes that poverty pushes poor people into crime because, among other things, their coping/survival mechanisms—such as brewing, possession, selling or drinking of traditional brews, hawking, loitering, prostitution, petty theft—are criminal offences. Poor people end up in prison for lack of money for legal representation or for paying court fines and more so because our court system prefers custodial sentences for petty offences to community service or probation. The irony is that serious, well-to-do criminals who have almost brought national economies to its knees go scot-free. On imprisonment most poor offenders suffer destruction in two ways: loss of social and material resources due to incarceration and personal destruction due to interacting with worse criminals and the appalling prison conditions. After completing their jail terms most ex-prisoners return home worse off: poorer, hardened, stigmatized, traumatized and fearing revenge and rejection by the community. The fact that this is very common puts into question the effectiveness of the current criminal justice system in rehabilitating offenders. Ultimately the ex-offender falls back into crime, and the cycle continues.
            RODI aims at breaking the vicious cycles of extreme poverty, crime and re-offending by attacking the causes of re-offending and, through training and support, empowering prisoners to rejoin and contribute to their home communities and national development. Ex-prisoners are regarded as resources which are under-utilized. RODI strives to make ex-prisoners become useful citizens and also help the prison and the authorities to play their rightful role in restorative justice.

The Program

            Using a strict criterion, prisoners are selected and trained in Biointensive Agriculture, food processing and value-addition, among other skills. This is done in order to equip them with skills and technology which they can use after leaving prison. Also, in order to sustain the program and also influence prison rehabilitation policy, prison officers at all levels are trained.
            Training normally takes 3-6 months, and successful prisoners are awarded certificates. Prisoners are encouraged to use the skills acquired and also pass them on to their home communities. They are encouraged to form Community Livelihood Improvement Groups (CLIGs). In the process of using their newly acquired skills, the prisoners draw the positive attention of their respective communities, who are keen to acquire the same. RODI also has a follow-up program for the ex-prisoners who have undergone their training. The main aim is to monitor their performance and help speed up the re-integration and acceptance processes into their respective communities.
            Through Bio-Intensive Agriculture (BIA) training, RODI is able to increase prisoners’ self-esteem, hope in life and self-reliance. For example, by showing prisoners how to grow tomatoes using locally available resources on a small piece of land and showing them how to make tomato sauce, juice and jam, and preservation through drying or how to make yoghurt, butter and ghee, we make them feel special and keen to go home and do the same. The training equips them with skills for self-employment, employment creation or employment by others. They are in a position to play a meaningful role in community development.
            RODI employees are mainly Manor House Agricultural Centre graduates. RODI also offers field attachment to students from MHAC, Baraka Agricultural College and Kenya Institute of Organic Farming. RODI is currently working in 23 out of the 93 prisons in Kenya, located in 14 districts in 5 provinces. 3,000 prisoners are trained every 2 years. This program is starting to be used in the East African region and is also being replicated in other countries, including Uganda and Zambia.

Future Plans
  • RODI-Kenya has entered into collaboration with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology to start training prisoners in BIA and awarding them with certificates. A course curriculum is now in the process of being drawn.  We are working on a program whose long-term goal is to mainstream prisoners into development-making to play an active personal, community and national role in development through training in BIA and natural resources management. By so doing prisoners will stop being a burden and will instead be resource persons and role models in their respective communities.
  • A BIA course curriculum for training prisoners and ex-prisoners will be developed.
  • Existing CLIGs will be strengthened and others formed.
  • The capacity of at least 3 prison officers in every BIA prison will be built through training. This will enhance the spread and sustainability of BIA in rehabilitation programs and also influence them to promote the ideals and principles of restorative justice.
  • The work will be documented and disseminated to other NGOs in Kenya, to identify the best practices and success cases in the program. We will also encourage other NGOs to target prisoners and ex-prisoners.



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