Botswana: Collaboration with key stakeholders such as Legal Aid Botswana takes centre stage in generating a clear path as Botswana Prison Service constantly transforms towards exceptional performance.
Speaking at the occasion of the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Botswana and Legal Aid Botswana (LAB) in Gaborone yesterday, the Commissioner of Prisons – Commissioner Dinah Marathe, said as the Service hits the ground to explore Community Corrections through the Reintegration Programme, there is a need for more stakeholder collaborations as the task is evidently huge.
She said there is a need to recognise that the Service would hardly make it to the top of the summit envisioned without key partnerships which are instrumental in driving the mandate.
She highlighted that a Memorandum of Understanding is a shared recognition of the close ties undertaken to nurture between the two agencies and the commitment to assisting one another in matters of mutual interest.
Commissioner Marathe pointed out that the Prison Service has a number of underprivileged prisoners in its custody and has no means to cover their legal representation. She, therefore, expressed confidence that with its mandate of providing legal services to the indigent, Legal Aid Botswana is a relevant stakeholder that will complement the universality of access to justice by all, regardless of their conditions.
She expressed hope that the partnership will expedite prisoner’s appeals, reducing litigations and granting prisoners access to justice. “This will, of course, be done in collaboration with other stakeholders in the criminal justice system such as the Police, the Courts and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions,” she highlighted.
She pointed out that as a signatory to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules For the Treatment of Prisoners (The Mandela Rules), Botswana Prison Service has an obligation to treat all prisoners with respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings.
“Our partnership with Legal Aid Botswana will add value to our mandate and enhance Botswana’s rankings in the criminal justice system both regionally and internationally,” she said.
While giving her remarks, the Chief Executive Officer of Legal Aid Botswana, Keona Mphetlhe, expressed gratitude for the epoch-making occasion of signing a memorandum of understanding between Legal Aid Botswana and Botswana Prison Service.
She said the relationship between Botswana Prison Service and Legal Aid Botswana captured in the MOU is a vital and critical cog in the LAB strategic intent of providing criminal legal aid to the indigent.
Executive Officer Mphetlhe highlighted that since its inception, LAB had provided a fraction of its legislative mandate in civil legal aid to the indigent.
She said the rollout of the criminal legal aid pilot project focused on the young offender is scheduled for implementation in the current financial year. “BPS is a critical and strategic partner of LAB in assuring the success of this project and achieving equal access to justice by those we had previously left behind”, she said.
These areas of cooperation will have a direct positive impact on society and especially on young offenders, who are seen as capable of being rehabilitated into upright, productive members of society.
She said the achievement of the general areas of cooperation will be through an Action Plan to identify and set specific (SMART) programmes, projects, and activities with associated measures and targets.