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It is widely documented that prisons in Ethiopia are inhumane and substandard and that inmates serving time in prison are mistreated and neglected. Yet, not much is known about the reason why the correctional system fails to be an agent of rehabilitation. By employing focus group discussion (FGD) and in-depth interview to collect data from prison inmates and prison staff, this study examined the factors that affected prisoner rehabilitation at Hawassa correctional facility, Southern Ethiopia. The finding of the study suggested that Hawassa correctional facility failed to fulfill its primary function of correction. A range of institutional- and inmate-related factors counteracted the very role of the institution as a rehabilitative agent. Six key factors were identified as barriers to successful prisoner rehabilitation: inadequacy of treatment personnel, underfunding of programs, absence of treatment personnel on administrative positions, weak inmate classification system, correctional officers’ low level of treatment orientation, and the inmate subculture. The prison administration, in alliance with other stakeholders, should put in place the requisite reform to address these barriers associated with prisoner rehabilitation. Keywords rehabilitation, prison inmates, prison staff, Hawassa correctional facility, Ethiopia century (Chavez & Dawe, 2007; Cullen, 2012; Cullen & Introduction Gendreau, 2000; Redondo, Garrido, & Sánchez-Meca, 2001; The major goal of rehabilitation is to change offenders’ Warren, 2007). behavior and prevent future offending through correctional Although correctional policy moved away from rehabilita- programs designed to address the factors that cause offenders tion, some revisionist scholars became interested in revitaliz- to break the law (Adler, Mueller, & Laufer, 2007; ing rehabilitation’s legitimacy by challenging the “nothing Andargachew, 2004; Nagin, Cullen, & Jonson, 2009; works” doctrine (Cullen & Gendreau, 2000; Redondo et al., Robinson & Crow, 2008). However, there has been high 2001). These scholars contributed to the reemergence of opti- debate throughout correctional history, mainly in Western mism in rehabilitation by conducting large body of meta-ana- society, regarding the efficacy of rehabilitation in reducing lytic studies, which proved the effectiveness of correctional recidivism. For most of the 20th century, rehabilitation per- treatment programs in decreasing recidivism (e.g., Andrews sisted as the dominant philosophy of correction, enjoying et al., 1990; Antonowicz & Ross, 1994; Izzo & Ross, 1990; considerable political and public support, with scholars plac- Lipsey, 1992; Redondo, Garrido, & Sánchez-Meca, 1997; ing a great deal of confidence in its efficacy to reduce recidi- Tobler, 1986; Whitehead & Lab, 1989). These series of meta- vism. Nonetheless, onwards of the 1970s, rehabilitation lost analyses, which were mainly conducted in North America its status as the dominant theory of correction mainly because of Martinson’s (1974) influential “nothing works” essay, in which he reviewed 231 studies of prison rehabilitation pro- Wolaita Sodo University, Wolaita Sodo, Ethiopia grams and concluded that programs had been largely ineffec- Corresponding Author: tive. Martinson’s finding prompted a shift from the Fitsum Meseret, Lecturer of Sociology, Wolaita Sodo University, Wolaita rehabilitative approach to the punitive one, which became Sodo, Ethiopia. the dominant sentencing practice in the last quarter of the Email: email@example.com Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open and Europe, specifically demonstrated that “the rehabilitation issues of prisoners, suggest that prison condition is harsh in programs that achieve the greatest reductions in recidivism the country, with prisoners largely suffering from extreme use cognitive-behavioural treatments, target known predic- overcrowding, malnutrition, and unhygienic conditions (e.g., tors of crime for change, and intervene mainly with high-risk Addisu, 2012; Gosaye, 2003; Mintewab, 2005; Shambal, offenders” (Cullen & Gendreau, 2000, p. 110). 2007; Yitayal, 2006). However, although this kind of research In the context of Africa, prisoner rehabilitation has been assessing detention conditions in Ethiopian prisons is com- recognized as one of the major functions of the correctional mon, there is paucity of studies that assess whether or not system. Regional instruments of penal reform such as the prisons are effective in implementing rehabilitation schemes, Kampala Declaration (1996), the Arusha Declaration (1999), making our knowledge of the issue meager. Therefore, this and the Ouagadougou Declaration (2002), which have been study was conducted with the objective of filling this gap by accepted by the majority of African states, promote the use of vividly investigating the extent to which prisoner rehabilita- rehabilitation programs to change criminal behavior and tion was implemented at Hawassa correctional facility, one facilitate a smooth reintegration of prisoners into society of the correctional facilities in southern Ethiopia. after imprisonment (Dissel, 2007; Sarkin, 2008). Based on what the evidences show, the central argument However, unlike the case in North America and Europe, of the study is that prisoner rehabilitation appeared to exist the debate surrounding rehabilitation has not been the domi- only at the rhetoric level at Hawassa correctional facility nant feature of the correctional discourse in Africa. Review without being supported by the necessary practical measures. of the existing literature reveals paucity of meta-analytic or As it will be discussed in the forthcoming sections, unlike other forms of studies, which investigate whether or not many correctional studies conducted in Africa, this study rehabilitation programs are effective in reducing recidivism. demonstrated that it is not only administrative factors but But rather, owing, perhaps, to the fact that rehabilitation is a also inmate-related factors that affect the effectiveness of relatively new correctional philosophy in many African prisoner rehabilitation, a finding that can be taken as a major countries, much of the correctional studies in the continent contribution to the field of correction in the context of the aim at investigating the extent to which the correctional sys- continent. tem implements rehabilitation practices in accordance with national penal policies and regional instruments. Materials and Methods The majority of these studies documented that there exists a huge gap between policy and practice with regard to pris- Study Setting oner rehabilitation in Africa. The studies found that the This study was conducted at Hawassa correctional facility, prison system generally failed to implement effective reha- one of the 23 correctional facilities found in Southern Nations, bilitation schemes as a result of numerous constraints. To Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR). The correc- illustrate, studies conducted in Nigeria demonstrated that the tional facility was established in 1970 during the imperial prison system fell short of attaining the rehabilitation goal regime, and it is currently administered by SNNPR prison due to extreme overcrowding, inadequate rehabilitative administration commission. The facility houses both male facilities and programs, and shortage of well-qualified per- and female inmates in separate living quarters, and pretrial sonnel (Gloria, 2014; Tanimu, 2010; Tenibiage, 2010). detainees are also placed in the facility. Inmates are housed in Similarly, studies in South Africa found that overcrowding, 19 dormitories, out of which 14 are for male inmates and five lack of resources, shortage of specialist personnel, and inad- for female inmates. The inmate population varies from time equacy of rehabilitation equipments hampered the effective to time, often ranging between 1,400 and 2,000. In terms of rehabilitation of prisoners (McAree, 2011; Thinane, 2010). organizational structure, the correctional facility is composed In studies from Kenya, it was found that overcrowding, of four departments: department of correction and rehabilita- availability of illicit drugs in prisons, poor working condition tion, department of finance and procurement, human resource of prison staff, and inadequacy of well-qualified profession- department, and department of inmate affairs. At the time this als (such as sociologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, coun- study was conducted, the total number of employees was 168, selors, and social workers) impeded effective rehabilitation out of which 134 were custodial personnel and 34 were non- of offenders (Nyaura & Ngugi, 2014; Omboto, 2013). custodial personnel. The correctional facility was selected for Finally, a study in Zimbabwe identified shortage of person- this study because of its proximity to the researcher as it was nel and lack of resources as the major challenges confronting located at his home town. rehabilitation (Rupande & Ndoro, 2014). Moreover, studies found the prison condition in African countries to be puni- tive, depriving, and dehumanizing, with the physical and Ethical Consideration psychosocial needs of prisoners largely neglected (Dissel, 2007; Omboto, 2013; Sarkin, 2008; Tanimu, 2010). Permission to conduct research at Hawassa correctional facil- Studies of penal governance in Ethiopia, most of which ity was approved by the head of SNNPR prison administration are concerned with conditions of detention and human rights commission and the director of the facility. Participation in the Meseret 3 study was voluntary and informants were required to sign After establishing rapport with treatment staff and Kabos, informed consent forms. The aim and purpose of the study as the researcher was able to identify male inmates who par- well as method of data collection were thoroughly explained ticipated in the study. Treatment personnel were also help- to each informant. Informants were clearly informed that they ful in arranging a setting where FGDs and in-depth had the right to withdraw from the interview at any time and to interviews were undertaken. While in-depth interview skip questions they did not want to answer. Informants were took 30 min on average, FGD took 1½ hr. Because of also assured confidentiality. some constraints, reaching female inmates came to be tough for the researcher. Although the prison administra- tor allowed the researcher to interview female inmates, Study Design and Sampling there came restrictions from female correctional officers The study was entirely qualitative and employed focus group who worried about the entrance of a male researcher into discussion (FGD) and in-depth interview as methods of data the premise of female inmates, leading the researcher to collection. Informants of the study were prison inmates, cor- quit the interview soon after interviewing few inmates. rectional officers, and treatment staff. Purposive and snow- Because of their being few in number, the researcher ball sampling techniques were employed to recruit informants decided to include all treatment staff in the study. In-depth into FGD and in-depth interview. A total of 30 informants—15 interview was conducted with each treatment staff on prison inmates, seven treatment staff, and eight correctional scheduled days. Interviews were held in offices and some officers—participated in the in-depth interview. Prison convenient places in the facility and took 30 to 40 min. inmates who had stayed long in the facility (5 years and more) Correctional officers were also approached for in-depth were purposively selected to take part in the in-depth inter- interview, which was scheduled in two ways. In some view assuming that they had relatively better institutional cases, officers were interviewed on days they were free of experience, which might help them provide in-depth and reli- discharging duties, and in other cases, they were inter- able information about prisoner rehabilitation at the correc- viewed at times they became free replaced by officers in tional facility. Indeed, they offered a detailed account of the the next shift. Interviews with officers took 20 to 30 min. rehabilitative performance of the correctional facility, which Unstructured interview guides, which were developed in helped the researcher to adequately address the objective of English and then translated into Amharic, were used to the study. Career criminals with history of recidivism and conduct FGDs and in-depth interviews. Because audio membership to criminal gangs were selected for the in-depth recording was not allowed by the prison administration, interview by using the snowball sampling technique. The the researcher was obliged to rely only on note taking dur- researcher established initial contact with some of these ing individual interviews and FGDs. inmates and asked them for referral to other inmates. The finding from these inmates was essential in indicating the Data Analysis nature of the prison subculture and its debilitating impact on rehabilitation. Treatment staff and correctional officers were Data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Field notes of purposively selected for the in-depth interview considering interviews and FGDs were transcribed in Amharic and tran- that their institutional experience could allow them scrutinize scripts were translated to English after they were checked for the factors that affect the rehabilitation process. The correc- accuracy through repeated reading and revision of field tional officers who participated in the study were the lower notes. Following transcription, it was important to read and level officers who were in charge of keeping prison security reread the transcripts to become familiar with the material and discharging such roles in prisoner rehabilitation as escort- and thereby go through the coding process. Manual coding ing inmates attending treatment programs. Information from technique was used to organize the data by identifying officers helped the researcher to find out the impact of prison themes and categories containing similar ideas. The analysis subculture and lack of inmate classification system on reha- was based on themes of interview guides and emergent bilitation. Finally, three FGDs were conducted with inmates, themes derived from the data itself. each group consisting of eight participants, giving a total of 24 participants. The sampling technique and selection criteria Results used to select FGD participants were more or less similar with that used to select in-depth interview informants. Different factors have been found to affect prisoner rehabili- tation at Hawassa correctional facility. The major factors identified by informants of the study are presented in six Data Collection themes in this section: inadequacy of treatment personnel, This study was conducted from February to April 2014. absence of treatment personnel on managerial positions, Prison inmates who participated in the study were selected underfunding of rehabilitation programs, correctional offi- with the help of treatment staff and cell heads who were cers’ low level of treatment orientation, weak inmate classi- known as Kabo in the language of the prison community. fication system, and the inmate subculture. 4 SAGE Open facility. Those who occupied the top administrative posi- Inadequacy of Treatment Personnel tions, including the prison administrator and deputy adminis- The employment policy of Hawassa correctional facility trator, were custodial personnel. Even the correction and appeared to be biased as it geared toward the disproportion- rehabilitation department, which was in charge of delivering ate recruitment of custodial staff at the expense of treatment rehabilitative services, was headed by custodial personnel staff. A stark difference in the proportion of treatment and who did not possess specific qualifications consistent with custodial staff is discernible if one examines the staff profile the function of the position. of the institution: While there were 134 correctional officers This condition, on its part, tended to have detrimental in charge of security, there were only seven treatment per- effect on prisoner rehabilitation. The administrative custo- sonnel in charge of delivering rehabilitation services. dial personnel, who were trained in police science, were Shortage of treatment personnel came to have chilling more concerned about security and control, scarcely both- effect on the delivery of rehabilitation services. It became ering about treatment and rehabilitation. They were often difficult for the available staff to handle tasks effectively resistant to the efforts of treatment staff to expand rehabili- given the large number of inmates in need of services and the tation programs and elevate the institution to the level of a absence of extra personnel to share responsibilities. This well-qualified rehabilitation center. This point was best point was clearly expressed by a legal educator, one of the explained by a female vocational trainer who was an treatment staff of the institution: employee of a nongovernmental organization (NGO) work- ing on the rehabilitation of female inmates at the correc- It is very difficult for me to discharge duties effectively as I’m tional institution: the only legal educator assigned to deliver service for all of the inmates serving time here. On top of this, having other duties as In addition to the existing programs, we had once an interest to legal personnel such as serving as an attorney and prosecutor for commence training in information technology. To this end, we the institution, it is hardly possible to concentrate on legal requested the prison administration to appropriate a room where education with all energy and time. the training would be delivered. Initially, the prison administration promised that it would help us launch the Similarly, the psychologist of the institution echoed the chal- program by allocating the room timely. On the basis of this, we lenges of delivering rehabilitation services in a context where bought computers, employed trainers, and requested the prison few treatment staff were available for large number of administration to give us the promised room. However, the inmates. He remarked, prison administrators failed to fulfill their promise claiming that they need the room for other purpose. It is ridiculous to claim that there is rehabilitation in a context Some treatment staff even went far beyond their professional where only one psychologist, one sociologist, one legal educator, and two vocational trainers are in charge of delivering duties to help the institution achieve its rehabilitation goal, rehabilitative services. What makes conditions even worse is the although their effort was not translated to success due to lack large number of inmates to whom you are expected to deliver of support from the managerial personnel. The best illustra- the services. In my specific case as a counselor, counseling tive case in point is the failed project of establishing a library requires establishing frequent relationships with clients through for inmates serving time at the correctional facility. One of series of follow-up sessions to bring successful change, which is the treatment staff remarked, unthinkable in the context of our institution. Because there was no library service for inmates, we decided to The fierce shortage of treatment staff also curtailed the par- establish library at the facility. We disseminated a proposal to ticipation of inmates in rehabilitation programs delivered at different schools, higher educational institutions, and NGOs, the correctional institution. For example, it is no surprise that requesting them to donate books to the library planed to be established. Unexpectedly, we were able to collect many books insignificant proportion of the total inmate population was from these organizations. Accomplishing this, we requested the enrolled in vocational training in a situation where only two prison administrators to deliver the room they promised to vocational trainers were available to deliver training. At the reserve for the library. However, they responded that the room time this study was conducted, out of the total inmate popu- was to be used for other purpose. It was heartbreaking response. lation (which was around 1,300), it was only 23 inmates who We did everything not because it was our duty, but because we were enrolled in metalwork and 35 inmates who were were enthusiastic to change and improve the institution and enrolled in woodwork. help inmates. It was not only treatment staff but also inmates who wit- Absence of Treatment Personnel at Managerial nessed the unresponsiveness of the managerial personnel to Positions rehabilitation and treatment efforts. It was noted that the managerial personnel were not concerned whether or not It was found that treatment personnel were not represented inmates were rehabilitated. They tended to reject repeated on any of the managerial positions within the correctional Meseret 5 requests from inmates who demanded the institution to After prison fellowship departed, we requested the prison administration to appropriate budget to the program. But, the expand rehabilitation programs. An inmate asserted, response was discouraging. Surprisingly, the administrators told us to borrow money from the prison to run the program and to We frequently request the prison administrators to commence pay it back by selling the furniture we produce in our production new rehabilitation programs since the existing ones are not unit. Because of shortage of budget, there have not been trainees sufficient for the whole inmate population. However, they often graduated in woodwork since 2010. respond that we don’t have the right to ask questions about rehabilitation. Once, one of the prison administrators said on a meeting “you are here not to be rehabilitated, but to be Correctional Officers’ Low Level of Treatment incarcerated.” Orientation In a similar way, another inmate, FGD participant, stated The other barrier impeding the rehabilitation process was the following when he explained the reluctance of the man- correctional officers’ resistance to rehabilitative ideas. It was agerial personnel toward rehabilitative efforts initiated by noted that most correctional officers preferred a more puni- inmates: tive prison environment as they had a strong conviction that rehabilitation would not bring change in offenders and deter Once, an engineer who was imprisoned here sought to help the them from further offenses. Officers were generally reluctant institution to commence vocational training in cobblestone and to play supportive roles expected from them in relation to brick production. According to his plan, inmates were to be rehabilitation programs. In this regard, the most commonly given training and then to be organized in small and micro raised issue was lack of interest among officers to escort enterprises so that they would earn money supplying production inmates who participate in rehabilitation programs. The psy- to the outside market. He told the prison administrators his plan chologist of the institution pointed out, and requested them to provide support for the commencement of the program. But, the administrators were not collaborative and When I need a client for counseling, I request officers to escort his plan failed to come true. the client to the counseling room. Although there are few collaborative officers, most of the officers resist such requests. Underfunding of Rehabilitation Programs In some instances, they say “why is counseling needed for such vagabonds who will be back to the prison again?” In other The budget policy of the correctional facility appeared to instances, they refuse to escort my clients claiming that they are work to the disadvantage of the rehabilitation goal. The serious offenders. Even when they are willing to escort, they prison administration had rarely been interested to allocate don’t bring clients on time. And sometimes, they force me to budget to the inception of rehabilitation programs. Most of stop before I finish a session. While a session should be of 50 the programs were incepted by NGOs working on prison- minutes, they would tell me to stop at the 20th or 30th minute, ers. Specially, an NGO called prison fellowship played tre- claiming that they should take the inmates back to their premise. mendous role in establishing educational and vocational programs. For vocational programs, the prison administration had The prison administration also remained indifferent to assigned officers whose regular and exclusive duty was appropriate budget to the execution of existing programs. escorting trainees to workshops where training was delivered. There were cases that some programs were officially However, even in this case, officers would not often discharge launched, but remained nonfunctional for many years due to their responsibility appropriately. Cases of absenteeism were shortage of budget. One of the treatment staff asserted, reported to be common. A vocational trainer remarked, I was employed in this institution in 1999 as a vocational trainer Although the prison administration has assigned two officers to for weaving. However, it was only in the year 2005 that inmates escort our trainees regularly, there are many occasions when were trained and graduated in weaving. In all the other years, either one of them or both of them are absent from job. We have there was no training in weaving because budget wasn’t repeatedly complained to the prison administration to give allocated to the program. Every year, I request the prison solution to the problem. However, solution hasn’t been given yet administration to allocate budget to the program, although it as the prison administrators don’t worry about the rehabilitation always fails to respond. The program is not in existence, but I of inmates. What they worry about is security and control. am still the employee of the institution. Treatment staff further blamed correctional officers for their Similar claim was evident in the case of woodwork program. tendency to tightly inspect inmates during training sessions. The program failed to train and graduate trainees because The surveillance by escorting officers created a sense of dis- prison fellowship’s project phased out and the prison admin- tress among trainees/clients, which made them lose interest istration failed to appropriate budget after the departure of in sessions. It also prevented trainers/counselors from han- prison fellowship. A vocational trainer in charge of wood- dling sessions effectively. The psychologist of the institution work program explained, remarked, 6 SAGE Open One of the problems I encounter in delivering counseling is the Every time a new comer arrives, the first thing he is asked is violation of the principle of confidentiality. Escorting officers about the offense he committed. It is common to hear cases of often stay too close to the gate of the counseling room, which murder in which victims are close associates such as parent, creates discomfort among clients and reduces their confidence spouse, and sibling. When you are frequently exposed to such to tell problems without fear. stories, your fear of crime tends to be low. You may take the offense you commit easy comparing it with such serious offenses. When you detain a murderer and a thief together, the A similar case was raised by a vocational trainer: result is that the thief would start to say “people kill their close relatives, what is the big deal about my offense?” Escorting Officers often stand close to the gate of the workshop looking after the trainees. The trainees are not comfortable with In addition, the detention of novice offenders with serious this. They don’t follow the lesson attentively as their attention is diverted towards the officers. offenders was reported to act as a factor enhancing future criminality. As the correctional facility was a relational social Moreover, it was found that correctional officers had the system where the influence of the informal inmate group was tendency to engage in practices that were disruptive to the high, it is no surprise that novice offenders were socialized to rehabilitation of inmates. One of such practices, which sig- the criminal attitude and values of serious offenders as well as nificantly impeded rehabilitation, was the smuggling of ille- the knowledge and techniques of committing further offenses. gal substances to the prison. An inmate, FGD participant, Novice offenders were tempted to imitate the criminal explained, behavior of serious offenders mainly because they were influenced by the repeated rhetoric of serious offenders who Most of the officers are engaged in illegal prison trade selling would often concentrate on the material and financial bene- contrabands such as drugs, chat, and alcohol. They sell these fits felony offers. A correctional officer asserted, substances at exorbitant price. How can it be said that inmates are being rehabilitated while they are allowed to engage in such Here, there are serious offenders whose livelihood is based on deviant behaviors? what they earn from property offenses. They tell minor offenders that they would benefit more if they engaged in higher level offenses, and they teach them the techniques of committing the Weak Inmate Classification System offenses. Novice offenders easily fall under their influence and take them as role models. The finding of the study suggested that there was no well- developed inmate classification system at Hawassa correc- The detention of juvenile delinquents with adult criminals tional facility. Sex was the only classification variable also exerted its own peculiar effect on rehabilitation. Being a employed to classify inmates: Male and female inmates were facility for adult criminals, the penitentiary did not appear to housed in separate premises within the facility. With this be a suitable place for the rehabilitation of juvenile offend- exception, inmates were detained together, irrespective of ers, but rather a setting where they became susceptible to the their risk level and the type of offense they committed. negative influences of adult criminals. Serious and novice offenders as well as juvenile delinquents For one thing, juvenile delinquents were exposed to a and adult criminals were housed together. social learning process in which they came to imitate serious The consequence of the weak inmate classification sys- offenses from adult criminals, a condition that reinforced tem was multifaceted. One of the consequences was that it criminal behavior. An inmate explained, left inmates vulnerable to the threat posed by violent offend- ers. It also presented itself as a risk factor impeding rehabili- Most of the delinquents here are sentenced for such minor offenses tation: Failure to separate juvenile delinquents from adult as gambling, petty theft, and conflict with parents. Their cases are criminals as well as novice offenders from serious offenders not serious and they can be treated easily. However, this isn’t the produced conditions that constrained attitudinal and behav- right place for their rehabilitation. Instead of rehabilitation, they ioral changes expected from inmates. learn further criminal behaviors from adult criminals. The detention of novice offenders with serious offenders in a single facility counteracted rehabilitation in various In a similar way, another inmate portrayed, ways. One of the problems noted was the reduced feeling of guiltiness among novice offenders that resulted from their This place is not good for delinquents. There is nothing good daily exposure to serious offenders. During their confine- that they learn here. Most of the rhetoric here is about crime. ment, novice offenders became accustomed to different cases Some offenders are so proud of the offense they commit that of serious and violent offenses, and, in some cases, they they always talk about it. Even some who are sentenced for established acquaintanceship with the offenders themselves, murder do not regret, but regard themselves as heroes. Especially, an experience that could work to the detriment of self-criti- it is during the night time when inmates gather in dormitories that these individuals proudly talk about their offenses. The cism and regret as they might come to develop the thinking delinquents are exposed to such stories every day since they are that their offense was insignificant compared with what oth- not housed in separate dormitories. ers did. An inmate, FGD participant, said, Meseret 7 The criminogenic effect of the correctional setting came to A typical manifestation of this phenomenon was the be further confirmed by numerous cases of recidivism among case of a group of inmates who were known as Workegnoch delinquents. An inmate asserted, (which literally means workers) in the language of the prison community. Workegnoch were career criminals who During my five years stay here, I have observed delinquents had a well-established criminal experience and association who returned to this prison four and five times. Every time they with criminal gangs prior to incarceration. They most often came, they were sentenced for offenses more serious than came from an economically underprivileged family resid- previous offenses. It is less probable that these delinquents will ing in slums and disorganized neighborhoods, and they quit committing offenses in the future as it is common to see were committed more frequently for property offenses. inmates who used to return to this prison frequently at early ages Recidivism was common among Workegnoch. Most of and who still do the same during adulthood. them were familiar with the correctional environment as they frequently returned to the facility committing subse- Sexual harassment and abuse perpetrated by adult inmates quent offenses. stood out as the other threats the correctional facility posed Having commonly shared attributes in terms of criminal to the well-being of juvenile offenders. It was reported that history, criminal identity, and preprison experience, it was juvenile delinquents faced constant threat of rape by adult common among Workegnoch to organize into informal social criminals because of their inability to defend themselves. groups during imprisonment. They constituted a subculture The rapists also exploited the naivety and inexperience of the with peculiar argot system, value system, normative system, delinquents for their purpose. In most instances, they applied and behavioral patterns. There also existed a well-established tremendous pressures in the form of bribes to the delinquents pattern of social interaction within the group. to abuse them sexually. An inmate remarked, Among other things, the informal group was mainly char- acterized by anticonventional normative system. For Juvenile delinquents are victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by instance, in contrast to the mainstream culture, the group homosexual adults. The perpetrators often give the delinquents attached high value to criminal career. Crime was regarded money and buy them food, soft drinks, cigarette, and drugs in order to attract them and do what they want. In my three years as an occupation upon which livelihood was based and a stay here, I came to know six delinquents who were raped by valuable means of earning better economic benefits. In fact, homosexuals being deceived in such way. by calling themselves Workegnoch and the crimes they com- mit work, they conveyed the message that crime was a nor- Similarly, another inmate, who was working as a co-coun- mal behavior out of which they made a career, just like selor at the correctional institution, explained how homo- people in other professions were committed to their career sexual inmates deceive and rape delinquents: for survival. The normative system also dictated that indi- viduals with great achievement in their criminal career ought Homosexual inmates usually get close to juvenile delinquents to be highly respected and recognized and offered special under the guise of helping and supporting them. Through time, privilege. Indeed, the group used a special argot called Gentle they put them under their influence and teach them some Workegna to praise a member who was extraordinarily suc- behaviors such as drug abuse and smoking cigarette. In my cessful in committing more sophisticated offenses. In addi- experience as a co-counselor, I have been able to identify three tion to being respected and feared, a Gentle Workegna was delinquents who were victims of rape perpetrated by recognized as an informal leader of the group, assigned with homosexuals. They told me that they weren’t aware of being raped as they took drug at the moment the act was committed. a title called owner to indicate his leadership position. Anticonventional normative orientation was also reflected by behavioral patterns that Workegnoch displayed in the The Deviant Inmate Subculture facility. It appeared that Workegnoch were rarely interested The inmate subculture was found to be one of the institu- to participate in constructive regime activities such as sport, tional realities at Hawassa correctional facility. It appeared religious service, and rehabilitation programs, but they that inmates had a propensity to organize into informal social highly inclined to illegitimate institutional behaviors such as groups characterized by an antisocial normative system that gambling, violence, and substance abuse. Moreover, stood against the rules and regulations of the prison adminis- Workegnoch commonly engaged in property offenses in tration and the values and norms of the mainstream society. which the prison community was frequently victimized. It became evident that inmates who mostly assimilated The assimilation of Workegnoch into deviant subculture into the anticonventional prison subculture were those who tended to have both short-term and long-term effects on had a well-developed and mature set of criminal value orien- rehabilitation. The short-term effect was related to the highly tations upon admission. Specifically, inmates with previous reduced interest within the group to participate in prison pro- history of conviction and membership to gang groups were grams that were important for rehabilitation. The normative more likely to engage in prison antisocial behavior than the standard of the group, which dictated subscription to illegiti- other inmate population. mate institutional behavior and unconventional means of 8 SAGE Open success, impeded the likelihood of engagement in construc- officers’ low level of treatment orientation, and the inmate tive rehabilitative activities such as educational and voca- subculture were identified as barriers to successful prisoner tional training. One of the Workegnoch asserted, rehabilitation. In a context of high level of prison overcrowding, inade- Workegnoch are not interested in rehabilitation programs. They quacy of financial and human resource acted to the detriment don’t have interest to participate in vocational training and have of prisoner rehabilitation in a range of ways. Severe shortage legitimate job in the future. They are more worried about what of treatment staff seriously affected the accessibility and offenses they should engage in to earn more money in the future. quality of rehabilitation programs delivered at the correc- If a Workegna is found attending school, vocational training, tional facility. Because programs were poorly staffed, the and religious services, he will be ridiculed and labeled as quality of services was at a very minimal level, and the pro- “deviant.” portion of the inmate population enrolled in programs was significantly reduced. Financial constraint was a serious In the case of long-term effect, the deviant subculture sup- challenge in the implementation of prisoner rehabilitation. plied numerous opportunities for a teaching–learning pro- The extreme shortage of budget limited the scope of the cess, whereby members came to imitate different criminal rehabilitation service, curtailed the quality of services, and behaviors and techniques from each other, thereby reinforc- resulted in the abandonment of programs in some cases. This ing criminal identity and future criminality. The teaching– finding is consistent with other findings, which have been learning process was noted to be hugely the function of crime reported by investigators assessing prisoner rehabilitation in specialization: There existed a process of reciprocity, African prisons (Gloria, 2014; McAree, 2011; Rupande & whereby a given Workegna who specialized in specific Ndoro, 2014; Tanimu, 2010; Thinane, 2010). offenses shared his experience for others who specialized in It is well documented that the success of prisoner rehabili- other offenses and vice versa. One of the Workegnoch tation depends on the extent to which correctional officers remarked, accept the rehabilitation philosophy and engage in rehabilita- tive endeavors (Lambert, Hogan, Altheime, Jiang, & The group is consisting of different Workegnoch who are experts Stevenson, 2009; Laswell, 2010). In this study, it was found in their respective work. The teaching and learning takes place that correctional officers were generally indifferent to the in such a way that a given Workegna train other Workegna the issues of rehabilitation and treatment. Most officers had neg- skills and techniques of his work and he is in turn trained the skill and techniques of other works by fellow Workegna. In my ative attitude toward rehabilitation as they advocated a more case, for example, I had no idea about burglary before I came in punitive prison environment. They were also blamed for here. I was trained the techniques of the work by other their reluctance to play expected roles in the implementation Workegnoch who specialize in it. In my turn, I taught them the of rehabilitation programs and their engagement in smug- different techniques related to motorbike theft. gling of illegal substances into the prison. This result is con- sistent with studies that have found prison officers’ lack of Furthermore, the organization of Workegnoch into informal interest in rehabilitation as a factor impeding rehabilitation deviant groups also served them as a fertile ground to recruit (Tanimu, 2010; Walsh, 2006) and other studies that have fellow co-offenders for future crime. It was found that rela- reported the disruptive impact of officers’ involvement in the tionships established within the group were further enhanced smuggling of drugs into prison (Gloria, 2014; Omboto, 2013; and consolidated after imprisonment for the purpose of co- Tanimu, 2010). Literature indicates that correctional officers’ offending. One of the Workegnoch asserted, involvement in inmate treatment and rehabilitation depends on the level of acceptance of the rehabilitation philosophy by Most of the time, the friendship you establish with Workegnoch administrators of the correctional institution (Laswell, 2010). here also continues after imprisonment. What you do is that you Officers would not likely be receptive of inmates’ rehabilita- exchange telephone number so that you will keep in touch after tion and treatment if the management of a correctional facil- imprisonment. I have created such relationship with a Workegna ity does not exhibit support for rehabilitation (Antonio, whom I knew during my previous incarceration. We exchanged Young, & Wingeard, 2009). Hence, in the context of Hawassa telephone number at the time he was released and started to do correctional facility, correctional officers’ indifference to work together after I was released. rehabilitation might be the reflection of a similar tendency, which was evident among the administrative staff. Discussion Inmate classification system is developed to properly The result of this study suggested that Hawassa correctional manage prisoners by effectively dealing with the varying facility failed to fulfill its primary function of correction. A degrees of risks they present to the correctional environment. range of institutional- and inmate-related factors counteracted It enables correctional institutions to effectively implement the rehabilitative goal of the institution. Inadequacy of financial their rehabilitation goal by preventing the negative impact of and human resources, absence of treatment personnel on mana- high-risk offenders on low-risk offenders (Farr, 2000). The gerial positions, poor inmate classification system, correctional finding of the current study suggested that there was Meseret 9 no well-developed inmate classification system at Hawassa explaining the relationship between engagement in illegiti- correctional facility. Among other things, there was no segre- mate institutional behavior and future inclination to law gation of minor offenders from serious offenders and juvenile violation: delinquents from adult criminals. This condition, on its part, . . . Values, attitudes, and behaviors that are contrary to an official affected rehabilitation in various ways. The detention of juve- prison regime are indicative of anti-social characteristics nile delinquents in adult facility made them susceptible to the generally. Thus, disrespect for prison rules, loyalty to other negative influences of adult criminals in two ways. On one inmates, and disparagement of submission to prison authority are hand, juvenile delinquents faced constant threat of rape taken to indicate disrespect for law, commitment to a criminal inflicted against them by adult offenders, a finding concurrent culture, and unwillingness to submit to legal authority. (p. 263) with available studies, which indicate that juvenile delin- quents placed in adult institution are at great risk of physical Assimilation into the anticonventional prison subculture also abuse and sexual assault (Arya, Ryan, Sandoval, & Kudran, acted as a factor diminishing participation in prison rehabili- 2007; Vincent & Zeidenberg, 1997). On the other hand, juve- tation programs. Inmates who subscribed into the subculture nile delinquents came to be predisposed to a setting that were found to have little or no interest in constructive reha- prompted imitation of serious criminal offenses from adult bilitative activities such as educational and vocational train- criminals, a condition that enhanced the likelihood of future ing delivered at the correctional facility. This corroborates criminality. The detention of novice offenders with serious Thomas and Foster’s (1972) observation that offenders was also found to have adverse effect on rehabilita- tion. Placed in a single facility with serious offenders, novice as groups of inmates come to oppose the prison as an organization offenders were exposed to a condition, which led to an and to highly value their interpersonal relations with one another, increase in the intensity of criminal attitudes and socialization the solidarity of the inmate system increases and the probability into a criminal subculture. Indeed, this is the reason why of the prison organization acting as an efficient change or some criminologists argue that prison has the special capacity rehabilitation agent decreases. (p. 15) to facilitate criminal thinking and identity in inmates with little or no prior correctional experience (Walters, 2003). Moreover, subscription to the deviant prison subculture The formal administrative structure of the prison system exposed inmates to a social learning process, in which differ- and the informal inmate subculture are inseparable entities ent criminal techniques and skills were shared, a condition between which there should be a smooth functional relation- that consolidated further criminal behavior. This is consistent ship if prison administration as well as rehabilitation is to be with the finding of other studies, which have demonstrated achieved successfully (Caldwell, 1956). Nonetheless, it is the capacity of prisons to enhance criminal thinking and documented in the preponderance of the correctional litera- identity in inmates who assimilate into the inmate subculture ture that prison inmates assimilate into a subculture that pre- (Camp & Gaes, 2005; Garabedian, 1964; Roxell, 2011; scribes illegitimate standards of behavior opposed to Thomas & Foster, 1972; Walters, 2003). In addition to shar- behavior prescribed by the conventional society and the for- ing criminal techniques and skills, there was also a common mal prison authority (Caldwell, 1956; Garabedian, 1964; practice of recruiting fellow co-offenders for future crime. Johnson, 1960). Consistently, it was found in the current Relationships established in the prison often continue after study that inmates with previous history of conviction and imprisonment for the purpose of co-offending. In relation to membership to criminal gangs organized into informal this, Roxell (2011) found that inmates who incline to the groups characterized by anticonventional value system and inmate counterculture become more interested in creating normative standards. These inmates, who already had a well- new contacts for the purposes of future criminality. developed criminal value orientation upon admission, vio- Above all, managerial incompetence was cited as the late prison rules frequently by engaging in illegitimate major factor contributing to the rehabilitative failure of the institutional behaviors such as violence, gambling, drug correctional facility. Administrative positions in the correc- abuse, and theft. This finding is in agreement with the impor- tional facility were dominantly occupied by custodial per- tation model, which claims that inmates with more extensive sonnel who were trained in police science and had little arrest and incarceration histories, prior involvement with knowledge about rehabilitation, which resulted in failure to gangs or security threat groups, serious substance abuse put in place effective rehabilitative schemes. The prison problems, and previous use of violence are more likely to administration was highly inclined to the custodial goal, and import antisocial behaviors to prison and engage in further rehabilitation was a mere rhetoric used to elicit reputation. In disruptive activities during incarceration (DeLisi, Trulson, relation to this, literature indicates that custodial-oriented Marquart, Drury, & Kosloski, 2011; Dhami & Ayton, 2007; prison administration largely focuses on improving security, Lahm, 2008; Reisig & Lee, 2000). safety, and order rather than delivering effective rehabilita- The frequent involvement of inmates in institutional mis- tive intervention (Craig, 2004; Howells, Heseltine, Sarre, conducts can be taken as a predictor of the likelihood of Davey, & Day, 2011; United Nations Office on Drug and future offenses. Tittle (1974) stated the following while Crime [UNODC], 2006). 10 SAGE Open Funding Conclusion and Recommendation The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author- The result of this study indicated that prisoner rehabilita- ship, and/or publication of this article. tion was a highly neglected issue at Hawassa correctional facility despite the claim that it was the principal goal of the References facility. Addisu, G. (2012). The human rights of detained persons in The rehabilitation rhetoric has not been supported by Ethiopia: A case study in Addis Ababa (Unpublished master’s practical measures, indicating the fact that penal gover- thesis). Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. nance has remained a serious challenge at the correctional Adler, F., Mueller, G., & Laufer, W. (2007). Criminology and the facility. In this context of ineffective penal governance, criminal justice system. 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Criminal Justice and Behavior, 30, 399-421. 12 SAGE Open Warren, R. (2007). Evidence-based practice to reduce recidivism: Author Biography Implications for state judiciaries. Washington, DC: U.S. Fitsum Meseret is a lecturer of sociology at Wolaita Sodo Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections. University, Ethiopia. He attended undergraduate study at Gondar Whitehead, J. T., & Lab, S. P. (1989). A meta-analysis of juve- University, Ethiopia, and graduated in BA degree in sociology in nile correctional treatment. Journal of Research in Crime and 2008. He did postgraduate study at Addis Ababa University, Delinquency, 26, 276-295. Ethiopia, and graduated in MA degree in sociology (health and Yitayal, M. (2006). The disposition of prisoners in Ethiopia well-being) in 2014. As a lecturer of sociology, he is engaged in (Unpublished master’s thesis). Addis Ababa University, Addis teaching, research, and community service. Ababa, Ethiopia.
SAGE Open – SAGE
Published: Jan 23, 2018
Keywords: rehabilitation; prison inmates; prison staff; Hawassa correctional facility; Ethiopia
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