Living conditions in Senegal’s state prisons are often very difficult: Access to water, toilets and medical services is limited, whilst living and recreation spaces are inadequate. Organized rehabilitation activities for prisoners are rare, increasing the likelihood that detainees will become repeat offenders. Furthermore, prisoners are likely to face considerable stigmatization and rejection by their families and communities, which makes it very difficult to reintegrate into society once they leave detention.
In Senegal, Tostan has developed a modified version of the Community Empowerment Program which aims to help detainees to reintegrate back into their communities: the Prison Project. Through classes and awareness-raising sessions in prisons, along with skills training outside prisons, Tostan builds detainees knowledge of human rights and equips them with practical skills to start income-generating activities. Tostan also facilitates mediations in person and by telephone to re-build bridges between former detainees and their families.
Read below two remarkable stories from the Prison Project in 2018.
Demba Sané reunited with his family after 10 years
Demba had served 10 years in a penal camp in Dakar without any contact or visits from his family. His wife and children didn’t even know where he was. Through the Prison Project, Tostan was able to locate his family and community in Diaobé, a rural area over 500 km away from Dakar, in the Kolda region of southern Senegal. Having been reconnected by Tostan, Demba’s family were overwhelmed with joy to know he was well after 10 years of not hearing from him. Through mediations sessions between the family, the village chief, the imam and other local leaders, Tostan has brought an awareness and understanding of Demba’s situation which will help him to reintegrate into his community successfully once released from prison.
Ivonne Diouf becomes a businesswoman and local skills trainer
In Senegal, female prisoners are regularly stigmatized by their communities and families. The lack of awareness of the challenges faced specifically by women in detention and the high levels of social rejection make it very difficult for them to re-establish themselves once they leave prison. Ivonne Diouf is one of several women supported by Tostan in Diakhay, Dakar. By bringing Ivonne and her family together through telephone mediations, and raising awareness amongst influential people from her community including the local priest and the neighborhood chief, Tostan helped Ivonne to be accepted back in to her community upon release. Following a Tostan training in the processing of local fruits, vegetables and cereals, Ivonne was able to launch her own business and in turn become an example for other local women by training them in her newly acquired skills. Instead of facing stigmatization and isolation, Ivonne is now an active and influential member of her community.
Tostan is thankful for the support of the Wallace Research Foundation for funding activities inside prisons and the US Embassy in Dakar for activities outside prisons.