In Juba’s maximum security prison, home to some of South Sudan’s worst criminals, inmates are learning new skills that will benefit them once they are released.
The prison, which houses both men and women serving long or life sentences and even the death penalty for their alleged crimes, are now part of a pilot project by Swedish Prison and Probation Service. The project focuses on teaching the women to sew.
They undergo a week-long training in sewing skills, both by hand and machine as well as how to cut cloth using patterns.
This initiative benefits most of the majority of inmates as it may help the women improve their lives once they have served out their sentences.
Many of these women come from a life riddled with poverty and unemployment, especially since the country faces a fragile economy post-conflict following the recent shut-down of its oil production, South Sudan’s only source of revenue.
Swedish prison officers who came to Juba say they hope their project will yield long-term results.
“This is going to be a permanent project, so that the women we are training here will in turn train their colleagues and the prisoners so that they can keep teaching more and more people how to do this and our goal is, what we have committed to is to ensuring, is that each female prisoner in South Sudan will have two sets of prison outfits,” said Agneta Johnson, who directed the course.
The program is currently training three inmates and nine prison officers in sewing 800 new women prisoner uniforms to be distributed to prisons across the country. South Sudan relies on such initiatives, funded by donors and international organizations, to provide even basic services like clothing for its inmates.
“I was unemployed before I was sent to this prison but I am sure after I am released, I will be able to do something which will also benefit the government,” said a female prisoner who could not be named.
The inmates will receive a training certificate once they complete the program which should enable them to find a job.
General Abel Wol, Director of National Prisons Service, who visited the project, hopes that initiatives like this will allow women to take their destiny into their own hands.
“This is an important project for women who are vulnerable in society. Once they acquire the skills here, they can return to their community and better serve themselves, their family and their people,” he said.
It is also hoped that such efforts can help reduce crime which is largely committed out of a sense of desperation and poverty.