A Senegal prison is incorporating fencing in its rehabilitation of young inmates, in hopes of instilling discipline and training them how to follow rules and regulations, according to CNN. The inmates, who have been convicted for different offenses, such as violence and theft, are trained twice a week in classes that are held outside the prison walls.
“There are a lot of rules in fencing, but it’s a sport that is helping [the inmates] regain [their] self-esteem,” Program Manager Hawa Ba told CNN.
The program, which was developed by Association Pour le Sourire d’un Enfant (ASE) in conjunction with Open Society Initiative for West Africa, aims to transform the lives of the young offenders by teaching them how to respect each other.
Nelly Robin, who came up with the idea to incorporate fencing into the prison’s rehabilitation program, notes that, “The gradual change in behavior of jailed minors in the detention space and during hearings has convinced all prison staff and magistrates of its merits.”
“Within the classes themselves, girls have discovered their capacity to command respect and boys have learned to respect them,” Robin added.
Many in the government had reservations about the idea, with some arguing that it was risky to give weapons to inmates, some of whom were convicted of stabbings.
Others feared that the inmates could escape when they went out for training sessions.
Despite the fears, Ba says the program, which has trained more than 100 inmates, has begun to bear fruits by completely changing the relationship between inmates and prison guards.
The minors, who are aged between 13 and 17 years old, train alongside child beggars, and Ba explains that the long-term goal is to build up the inmates into qualified trainers so that they can earn an honest living once they’re released.
Inconsiderate Justice System
Currently, minors make up for 4.6 percent of the Senegal’s total prison population, according to World Prison Brief.
The country’s excessive use of detention for minor offenses has also been put to question, with Ba admitting that there is a problem with the justice system.
“The children are not the problem, it’s something wrong with the system,” she said.