Thursday, April 25, 2024

Botswana has never asked for EU’s help with overcrowding in prisons

If the European Union is really concerned about Botswana being a death penalty jurisdiction, what assistance has it rendered the latter in areas of law enforcement and prison management?

The rationale is that improved crime control measures (like increased police presence on the streets) would arguably reduce murder rates. The other perspective is that convicted killers who are not executed add to the overcrowding problem in prisons and one of the reasons why some cycle in and out of the prison system is because they are not rehabilitated.

Without a moment’s hesitation, the European Union Ambassador to Botswana and SADC, Alexander Baum, gives an answer that perfectly fits his characterisation of it.

“I’ll give you a simple answer: we’ve never been asked,” he says, momentarily adding that if such help is requested, the EU would probably find “financial instruments” (EU-speak for money) that could be used to help plug holes in the system. “We have limited financial resources but we may be able to help.”

Baum then pivots to state in general terms that policing and prison services are “essential constituting elements of a state” that are supposed to work as a matter of principle. In elaboration of the latter, he asserts that democratic rule which the judicial system is part of, is a “very expensive” undertaking that governments must be ready and willing to finance to the required level.

With precise regard to the prison system, the EU Ambassador feels that some “problematic” areas that he has identified could be knocked into shape. Rather than “have young men sit around in prison doing nothing”, the system could be made more cost-effective by equipping them with skills as well as putting them to labour that has economic value.

Perhaps the worst problem that the Botswana prison system has to contend with is recidivism (prisoner re-offending) which, is among the highest in the world. Those who know what is happening in the prison system say that recidivism largely has to with inadequate rehabilitation. Baum’s addition to this account is that this reoffending comes at great cost to the state in terms of the resources that have to be used to try and imprison offenders. 

This conversation takes place against the background of the recent execution of Joseph Tselayarona, a Molepolole man who killed his girlfriend and her son. The EU is opposed to the death penalty and traditionally puts out a condemnatory statement each time any state executes a death row prisoner.


Read this week's paper