"My experience in prison was really seeing. Seeing what happens, seeing what people go through, seeing these women get out and instead of being happy, they are crying all night, because they have no place to go to." - Irene Namwano, Director of Prison Fellowship International in Uganda and formerly incarcerated In 2012 and 2015, I visited women imprisoned in Uganda languishing away for years, often without a conviction, sometimes while caring for their children in prison with their mothers. Thwarted by national policies, such as the Anti-Pornography Act and traditional customary laws that prohibit owning land or maintaining assets, women in Uganda are most at-risk for poverty, disease, crime and violence.
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LUKE, 10, was left to fend for himself after his mother was incarcerated. Children in Uganda have no rights when a parent is incarcerated and without any family they are basically abandoned. With the help of Prison Fellowship International, Luke now attends a boarding school, which gives him food, shelter and an education.
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UGANDAN WOMEN PRISONERS idle in the yard at Gulu Prison. Women prisoners have unique needs, yet have disproportionately less resources than their male counterparts housed only a hundred feet away. Many have children, who serve time with their mothers; new mothers who are HIV+ cannot breast feed their children and have little else in nourishment or healthcare while incarcerated. Ugandan women prisoners also lack access to education, work or other rehabilitative training for self-empowerment (though men do), thus increasing their chances of returning to prison.
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A WOMAN PRISONER sits in a room dedicated to sewing at Gulu Prison. Lacking materials and resources, the room has little equipment or purpose.
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WOMEN PRISONERS outside the Gulu prison kitchen. Without any activities or schedule other than manual labor the women languish behind prison walls, some for years without a conviction. Accommodating gender-specific needs is more of tax on resources than a necessity.
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A CHILD LOOKS out onto the Namuwongo slum of Kampala City in Uganda.
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ALICE, A HOMEBREW GIN DISTILLER, at her home in the Namuwongo slum of Kampala City in Uganda. After Fiona's mother was arrested, Fiona had literally nowhere to go. Alice took over the care of the child despite the environment of substance abuse, poverty and lack of support. Fiona's mother while in prison sought the attention of Irene and asked her to retrieve her daughter. Alice cooperated and Irene now has full custody of Fiona. The slum stinks of alcohol and refuse, with many children some visibly ill wandering around the marketplace. This children are most vulnerable to abuse, neglect and illness.
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"THE FEAR of God is the beginning of wisdom" reads a chalkboard in the classroom at Gulu Women's Prison in Uganda.
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IRENE NAMWANO, Director of Prison Fellowship International Uganda and a formerly incarcerated woman sits among four children with incarcerated parents to whom she has become legal guardian. With no policy protecting these children when a parent (in all but one case their only parent) is incarcerated, they are left to fend for themselves putting them into vulnerable situations. Though at an informal stage, Irene aspires to formalize a foundation for these children creating hope where there was none. Ms. Namwano has already provided each child with access to education, visitation with their parents and a place to call home on the holidays.
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THE REFLECTION OF A WOMAN prisoner in a barrel of water. She lamented that being HIV+ she cannot breastfeed her child, and they do not have enough food to even nourish themselves. She hoped one day the prison could afford a heifer for the milk it produces.
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A PRISON OFFICER stands before the barracks that are temporarily housing the women prisoners at Gulu Prison. The women were moved there after the 150-year-old compound was found to be condemned. Renovations have yet to commence and are delayed in definitely said the Office in Charge. The women are held in the old prison that at one time held both women and men, but due to the increase in the male prisoner population UPS (Ugandan Prison Services) has constructed a newer compound for the men.
"My experience in prison was really seeing. Seeing what happens, seeing what people go through, seeing these women get out and instead of being happy, they are crying all night, because they have no place to go to." - Irene Namwano, Director of Prison Fellowship International in Uga...