In 2014, Avonbrook agreed to fund a 3 year programme to bring about lasting improvements to the conditions and prospects of boys incarcerated in Toamasina Prison.
This programme was supported and monitored by MfM and delivered by the Malagasy NGO ‘SAF’ in cooperation with the Malagasy prison authorities.
In Madagascar the prospects for a child accused of a crime, even a petty crime like stealing food, are grim. Firstly the judicial system assumes guilt until proven innocent. Outside of the capital few towns have special facilities for children, so frequently minors are incarcerated in an adult prison until they are either found innocent or until they have served a sentence.
Toamasina prison is located in the large regional hub of Toamasina, on the East coast of Madagascar. There is no remand service for boys in Toamasina so instead the boys live in cramped ‘juvenile’ quarters within the main prison compound. Before SAF and MfM got involved the boys had stark quarters with a small bare concrete yard. There were no organised activities for the boys at all apart from occasional literacy lessons provided by church groups. Food rations were miniscule.
Following successful programmes in 2012-13, part-funded by Avonbrook, from 2014 new activities were introduced and existing activities strengthened. Transfer of skills to dedicated prison staff and specialised social-workers was central to the approach. New collaboration with the prison farms were explored and a major emphasis was placed on the successful reintegration of boys into society.
The programme activities included:
- Literacy & numeracy classes
- Play and educational games
- Horticulture – vocational training
- Improved diet through harvesting and eating crops
- Worm breeding – vocational training
- Solar food-drying – vocational training
- Training boys in conflict resolution and interpersonal skills
- Transfer of skills from SAF to prison staff
- Extension of crop cultivation using the prison farms
- Engagement of parents
- Support and follow-up for released boys re-entering society
- Pilot workshops and training to ‘prevent’ delinquency and incarceration.
The engagement of key stake holders such as the prison authorities and the juveniles’ parents bring the prospect of a deeper and more enduring impact.