Prisons are one of the most hostile environments on the planet. Whilst some institutions have televisions in the cells and good food in the canteen, the majority of prisons in Africa pose a serious threat to one’s mortality.
When Diwani (a suspect in his wife’s murder trial) fought extradition to South Africa on the grounds that the country’s prisons were brutal, his lawyers were not exaggerating. Sexual abuse of juvenile prisoners is common, malnutrition common and overcrowding endemic. Many detainees awaiting trial are on remand for several years before their cases are heard.
Yet, other African prisons offer far worse conditions. Gitarama Central Prison in Rwanda was built for 400 prisoners. Today, there are almost 7000. Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in Kenya holds several political prisoners but they still have to suffer from beatings by the guards, cholera and malnutrition. Black Beach Prison in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea offers inmates a choice on their birthdays: hands or feet. The amputation of one or the other is a hard choice to make on the morning of your birthday.
6 ways to survive prison
- Understand your rights and what you are allowed before you go to prison. Some prisons allow you to bring food or open an account to buy food during your incarceration.
- During processing, you are strip searched and must hand over all your possessions. You will sign documents that you cannot read or understand.
- Each prison has its own cash economy. Tea, coffee and food are universally accepted trading items. In the United Kingdom, where smoking is banned, nicotine patches are in high demand.
- Make friends quickly. Introduce yourself and make it apparent that you are either a thief, sex offenders or a threat.
- Do not give anything away but rather trade.
- Develop a skill or reputation for being able to get things done. Mix with the guards and build an inside network of contacts.
Attend one of our courses and understand how to behave when arrested and protect yourself in prison.
H. E.A.T. tip: Do not do anything illegal once inside. You can get your sentence reduced for good behaviour.