The Prisons project works with prisoners in the Western Cape on issues of health, offering training, hosting events and collaborates with the provincial Department of Correctional Services.
Prisons across the country are host to distressingly high numbers of HIV-infected people, and corruption of prison officials, violence, gangs and rape are rife in correctional facilities. It is well-known that the rate of recidivism is high and that prison sentences do not do much in the way of correcting the behaviour of the convicted, and often worsen the condition of ex-prisoners’ lives. For these reasons and more, Sonke decided to implement a project that focuses explicitly on improving the health-seeking behaviours of prisoners in local correctional facilities. The project is a couple of years old now, and has expanded to work with both male and female inmates in 12 prisons.
Both inmates and correctional officers are trained as peer educators to act as leaders within their prison community, providing support, education and an example of healthy living to their counterparts. Health areas covered by the project include education on anal and cervical cancer, TB, diarrhoea, contraception, and sexually transmitted infections. All peer educator groups are continually supported by Sonke’s prisons team, who run frequent follow-up workshops. One focus of the project is to reduce HIV infection rate through HCT and Treatment Adherence programmes.