Prisons in Burundi have a serious problem of overcrowding. The number of detainees far exceeds the capacity of the prisons. It should be recalled that Burundian law, in this case the Burundian Code of Criminal Procedure and the Penal Code offers alternatives for decongesting prisons.
The political and security crisis that the country has been experiencing since 2015 has strongly generated prison overcrowding. The slowness in the processing of legal cases and the lack of enforcement of court decisions, have greatly contributed to prison overcrowding.
The figures recorded during the year 2020 show that in the prisons, there is a number of detainees which exceeds by more than three times the capacity of the prisons.
In view of this situation, the Burundian authorities is aware of the seriousness of the situation and make an effort to put an end to the recurrent human rights violations in the prison environment. It is in this context that the Traume Healing and reconciliation program launched its program under the recommendations of the 2018 external evaluations and got licence to implement TH activities within all prisons and juvenile centers. Strongly believing that when in touch with the approach, their lives would be impacted for good and help them to process their healing and become better persons in dealing with their trauma and once released to their beloved families the social integration within the family and community would be positive as the office of prisons managements has noticed that as many who are granted presidential pardon after awhile find themselves back in prisons.
BSB took hold of that opportunity and introduced a request to the Ministry of Justice to introduce trauma healing programs in prisons to assist with processing of traumas and preparations for those being released to handle challenges of integration into society. BSB received the approval in September 2021 to introduce TH activities in prisons nationwide, and held a convening session in 2022 which granted the full permission to introduce TH activities such as healing groups and equippings into prisons.
Seventy-two staff of the general penitentiary directorate in Burundi, did an initial equipping in trauma healing. “Initially we felt the approach was competing with other psychosocial approaches implied but we later credited TH approach as easy to imply and as head of cells will undergo the training too, this will help the few social services workers to attend to trauma issues withing the prisons” said one participant.