Improving Afghan Correctional Facilities

January 31, 2017

Source: Q4 2016 Inside PAE.

PAE implements the Department of State (DoS) Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Corrections System Support Program (CSSP) in Afghanistan. CSSP provides mentoring and advising support, training assistance, leadership capacity building initiatives, infrastructure assistance and nation-wide case management for correctional facilities.

Empowering Human Rights Initiatives

On behalf of the U.S. government, PAE works alongside Afghan counterparts to further U.S. national security objectives related to Afghanistan’s correctional facilities. “Reforming correctional facilities to ensure just punishment and successful inmate reintegration and rehabilitation is crucial to Afghanistan society and U.S. national security,” said PAE Acting Program Implementer Walt Haselrig. “Afghanistan’s prisons are overcrowded, and the system is a challenging one. A common phrase there is ‘You can’t build your way out of it.’ Meaning that instead of building more prison facilities, we need to focus on sustainable initiatives that will protect human rights.”

Mentoring and Advising Conferences

The cornerstone of CSSP is mentoring and advising correctional facility staff and governmental departments across Afghanistan. To this end, CSSP attends and hosts conferences in order to meet with stakeholders, gather ideas, create action plans and analyze program effectiveness.

In November, CSSP and INL hosted a two-day conference in Kabul focused on Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) programs for incarcerated juveniles. “ATI programs assist the government of Afghanistan in achieving its stated goal of using incarceration only as a last resort within the juvenile justice system,” said Senior Advisor Richard Morin.

“Given the increasing strain on resources in juvenile facilities, Afghanistan’s Juvenile Rehabilitation Directorate (JRD) has to ensure that current and future incarcerated youth can have rehabilitative opportunities through alternative to incarceration,” said PAE CSSP Juvenile Team Senior Project Advisor Murtaza Rahimi. Representatives from stakeholder organizations discussed ATI program benefits and the way forward for provinces with large populations of incarcerated youth.

“This conference helped us create the ATI Action Plan for Herat [Prison],” said Herat Justice Director Rahmani. “Now everyone knows their responsibilities and can work together to implement ATI in Herat.”

Monitoring and Evaluating Progress

Another important approach to improving correctional facilities is monitoring and evaluating progress. CSSP recently conducted Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) training in Dubai, UAE for CSSP staff. “The M&E training helps us evaluate how, and to what extent, we have helped reform the Afghan correctional system into one that is safe, secure, transparent, and humane, and one that follows international best practices,” said PAE CSSP Chief of Team Jesse Williams. During training, the group practiced using SurveyCTO, an offline mobile data-collection platform that collects data in the field for evaluations.

Improving Infrastructure, Creating Sustainable Programs

“Our ultimate goal is to work ourselves out of a job,” said Walt. “It is important to focus on programs that help correctional facilities become financially sound while also furthering prisoners’ skills to advance rehabilitation.”

One such rehabilitation project is a laundry facility at the Special Narcotics Prisons (SNP) in Kabul. Due to the business opportunities of prison laundry units and the short-term success at other prisons with laundry units, the Afghanistan General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Centers (GDPDC) recently approved expansion of a laundry program with CSSP support. At the SNP, the laundry program will serve prisoners’ needs, providing clean clothes and skills they can use outside prison. It will also actively market its services to hospitals, orphanages and hotels to create financial support for the facility.

However, before any programs can become sustainable, facility infrastructure must be intact. CSSP’s Infrastructure Project Management Team assists INL in building out correctional facility infrastructure. “We can do all the mentoring and advising in the world on reintegration and rehabilitation,” said Walt “but it takes effective operations and a secure infrastructure to have a completely sustainable system.”

Holistic Approach to Reform Entire Justice System

CSSP and PAE’s Justice Sector Support Program (JSSP) are working together to ensure a more transparent system. Utilizing the Case Management System (CMS), CSSP inputs data into a countrywide database that more accurately tracks cases. CSSP has integrated 20 of 34 provinces, with a February 2017 completion date scheduled.

“Reform requires a holistic approach in Afghanistan,” said PAE CSSP Operations Specialist Jessica Singh. “CSSP works closely with JSSP to reform the entire justice and correctional system in Afghanistan. Our collective efforts go hand in hand.”

CSSP: A Top Program in Afghanistan

CSSP is one of the most successful programs in Afghanistan, as stated in the letter to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction excerpted below:

INL has, through its implementing partner [CSSP], assisted the GDPDC in improving its capability to operate safe, secure, and humane Afghan correctional facilities.

  • DoS Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Daniel Feldman

“We have broken through security and cultural barriers and built capacity,” said Jessica, “often in sensitive areas such as raising gender awareness and assisting vulnerable populations.”

“We are extremely proud of the positive impact the CSSP program has had on the Afghan correctional system,” said Chief of Team Jesse Williams.