Kenya Prisons Service have been paramount in the partnership with the University of Exeter
to become pioneers in the integration of the Mindful programme into Kenyan prisons since 2015. Madam Mary Khaemba, Director of Offender Correction and Rehabilitation, was one of the first people to visit the UK to attend training at Embercombe with Dr Inma – Senior Lecturer in Leadership Studies at the University of Exeter. It was from here that Madam Mary saw the benefit, potential and difference this could make within the Kenya Prisons Service, and embraced the opportunity to create a partnership.
Madam Mary opened doors and encouraged growth within the prisons, enabling welfare officers to attend training directly with Dr Inma, as well as encouraging and empowering institutions to open their doors to the programme – which is how Dr Inma entered the prisons to work directly with the inmates, who are now the Mindful Leaders. Thus the seed was planted.
Madam Mary shares:
“To me it was a wonderful experience – very, very wonderful experience in the way of just creating a lot of self-awareness in myself and how it comes out to touch other people … when you are with Inma it was like we were looking at ourselves as leaders, as people out for change. But change come from the inside, and the way you look at it … the way you share with other people, it just automatically makes them feel: ‘Yes, this something nice, this something very interesting.’ And that’s how we came into contact with it and we are proceeding”
She has witnessed the change that has happened within the prisons that offer the Mindful programme. She shares:
… there’s a lot of difference in the sense that where the programme is running, there’s … harmony and understanding and, you know, there’s a lot of collaboration between the members of staff and the inmates, which we really need”
She has recognised not only the inmates’ benefit from being present, alert, attentive and awake; it helps with the wellbeing of her staff too, so she has adopted a weekly Mindful session together on a Tuesday at Headquarters, where her team pause, look at themselves, reflect, and ground themselves.
Madam Khaemba aspires to have the Mindful programme in all prisons across Kenya – to lead the way, to show the world the difference made by adopting this Inner Rehabilitation programme (on many levels), to create harmony and peace in the mind, between peers, in relationships between officers and inmates, and within families. She endeavours to incorporate Mindfulness within the Reception Board, so that ALL inmates upon their arrival in prison find their emotions and the openness to deal with what they are facing. Moreover, within the Exit Board, so that inmates leave in a headspace that feels prepared, resilient and ready to reintegrate, providing them with the tools to make conscious choices and not act on autopilot.
A recurring theme within the prisons already involved in the project is introducing Mindfulness to inmates on remand. Many have this practice in place already, but we recognise the overarching benefit of helping calm the minds of those who are likely to leave earlier, in order to promote reintegration and a change of state of mind – to be at one with their emotions and able to deal with them. It is hoped that this will then seep into the lives of their children and families. The steps with which we can reach these aspirations are being implemented. It is a very exciting time for the project; the momentum, drive and passion that it entails are capturing great interest and allowing for wonderful things to emerge.
Headquarters is also home to Rose Tariki, who is a Senior Welfare Officer within Headquarters. Ros
e is responsible for the co-ordination within the prisons. She worked directly with Emma and she is one of the reasons why the projects are moving along.
Mindful Welfare Officers are growing a community, keen to travel to each other’s institutions and gain support, teaching and learning from inmates or other welfare officers there. This increases morale and ensures that the best, most effective knowledge, methods and innovations are shared for all individuals and prisons.
As well as this they too have developed their use of the Handbook originally created by Dr Inma and her team – creating 8 separate volumes for areas to develop emotions, the mind and the whole person. Co-ordinator Senior Welfare Officer Rose shares
Now I thank Dr Inma because she opened up our minds and now we can see far. We can see what we were supposed to do for a future, not only for ourselves but for the generations to come.
In April 2018, for the very first time a 8-session Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course was offered to 5 prison officers at Naivasha Maximum Security Prison, a course that was facilitated by Mindful Teacher Shanker Venkatasubramanian, who provided a safe, supportive place and many Mindful Practices and tools for the Welfare Officers to benefit from, furthermore to implement into their personal lives as well as their professional. A lot of interest in this course has been had and it is hoped it can be offered to many more Prison Welfare Officers within Kenya and beyond.