Namibia: First Lady Calls for Targeted Programmes Around Drug Abuse

FIRST lady Monica Geingos says there should be targeted programmes around drug and substance abuse.

She was speaking at the inauguration of the newly renovated women's wing at the Windhoek Correctional Facility on Wednesday, where she said statistics in the correctional facilities are an important determinant of the kinds of interventions the country must put in place.

"Of the 4 000 plus inmates who are here, at least 1 000 of them are in educational programmes, the bulk of which being for basic literacy and vocational training," she said.

"We must better understand the relationship of landlessness, farm workers and their children and why they are ending up in these correctional facilities, because normally if you are looking for marginalised, you look in your correctional facilities," Geingos said.

The newly inaugurated women's prison wing was closed in 2009 to allow for renovations and alterations, which cost about N$48 million.

The female section has the capacity to accommodate 118 offenders and consists of two units. There are currently 89 women and five children at the facility.

Commissioner general Raphael Hamunyela said the facility includes a child-friendly area, designed to provide children under the age of two years a harmonious environment to assist them in strengthening and building the bonds with their mothers.

"The centre is meant to provide female offenders access to social and educational programmes that give them an opportunity to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society as law-abiding citizens upon release. These programmes, of course, take into cognisance the uniqueness of women and their distinctiveness in their motives to commit crimes," he observed.

Hamunyela said the centre has a fully furnished clinic, with medical equipment worth N$550 000, courtesy of the United Nations' Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

"I would like to acknowledge the good collaboration with the office of the first lady, UNODC and many of our reintegration partners in the quest to realise our vision of being 'Africa's leader in the provision of correctional services'," he continued.

According to research done by the facility, women commit offences because of risks, financial needs, or physical and sexual abuse, parental stress and substance abuse.

Jessica Geingos, one of the inmates, is serving a 17-year sentence for murdering her boyfriend in 2013. She said she already feels safe in the centre. Geingos' year-old daughter is with her.

"I am particularly looking forward to completing my school and become a better mother for my four children, and a good citizen of my country.

"The rooms are also good, and you can see the prison authorities are showing us respect, although we are criminals.

Most of us are not here because we want to be here," Geingos added.

Sarafina, (not her real name) from Rundu, who was arrested while selling drugs at Grootfontein, was only seven months pregnant when she was sentenced. Her baby is two-and-a-half months old.

"I was very scared about bringing my baby up in prison, but the environment here is good, especially for the babies," Sarafina said.

Hamunyela said they are confident that with the public's support, the centre will release well-rehabilitated offenders who can be effectively reintegrated into society, with renewed hope of a better and crime-free life.

*This story has been modified.

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