COVID 19 Negatively Impacts Reintegration for Former Prison Inmate.

Pauline Chateuka

Rudo Chunyeda was arrested in 2019 after she was found in possession of 5kgs of mbanje /marijuana and sentenced to 12 months in prison for drug peddling, of which 4 months were suspended on condition of good behaviour.

Unfortunately for Rudo she was released in March 2020 in time to face yet another pandemic enforced lock-down due to COVID19. Rudo told CORAH that COVID-19 has presented more challenges than opportunities for her and life has been harder now that she is out of jail.

Female Prisoners in Chikurubi Prison

“l have encountered survival challenge in a situation where l am supposed to restart my life and try to mend my relations with the whole community as well as with my family. Reintegration has not been easy. My child is the only one has who stood by me and supported me”.

My biggest challenge is lack of income and means of generating money for upkeep, with COVID-19 and lock-downs i could not even set up a vending stall to sell vegetables to the community, since we are advised to stay home however one needs to eat and hunger has pushed me informal mining areas to sell fish to informal miners”.

“While in prison l came across donors such as Female Prisoners Support Trust an organization led by Dr Rita Nyamupinga.They would come with release l.spoke with them and they once visited me during this period of COVID 19 and donated a hamper of groceries which also contained sanitizers ,soap and masks on effort to assist female ex-inmates”.

Rudo expressed her wish for herself and other ex inmates to be helped by organisations such as FEMPRIST in starting livelihoods projects. Rudo said she strongly believes that everyone has a second in life even if you had been in prison, she advised other ex-inmates never to give up but urged then to try new ways of earning a living. She also called on communities to stop stigmatising ex-prisoners.

” l would like to communities to remind them that everyone is a potential prisoner therefore families relatives and friends should take important roles in assisting ex-inmates during the re-integration period”.

Dr Rita Nyamupinga showing the mushroom project that FEMPRIST is running for female prisoners

In an interview with Female Prisoners Support Trust founder and director Dr Rita Nyamupinga said, “As COVID19 frontliners we came up with a project where we are assisting female ex-inmates with food packs that also include sanitizers, soap and masks. We are planning to start small projects such as gardening, sewing that will help female ex-inmates in sustaining themselves economically during this period of Covid-19 pandemic. Re-integration has proved to be the most difficult part in the life of a female ex-inmate the reason why most of the women become re-offenders. As FEMPRIST we also assist in the reconciliation of female ex-inmates with their communities and families through offering psycho-social support to both parties”.

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