Project Title: A New Life, A New Hope
Years: December 2015 – June 2018.- June 2019
Donor: the US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Target Regions: Morocco, Mali, Niger
Prisons in the Sahel and Maghreb regions are often overcrowded, under-equipped, and plagued by conflict, increasing the risk of radicalization among prisoners. Inmates also often lack the skills and resources to facilitate their reintegration into society when they are released. For this reason, unemployment and lack of social support often drive them toward recidivism.
There is an acute need for professional reintegration programs focused on decreasing recidivism and lessening the appeal of violent extremist recruitment among detainees in the region. After nearly a decade of working to prevent conflict in the Moroccan prison system, we led a regional initiative, A New Life, a New Hope, to support reintegration programs across Morocco, Mali, and Niger. We aimed to reduce recidivism rates across the entire Maghreb and Sahel regions. The project gave inmates tools to facilitate their path from prison to home. It was based on the idea, from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, that imprisonment on its own is not capable of addressing the offenders’ social integration.
This project was deeply rooted in local contexts as we conducted hundreds of interviews and focus groups in 12 prisons throughout the countries. A total of 255 people were interviewed in Morocco, Mali, and Niger, including 16 prison directors, 43 prisons guards, 39 support staff, 122 inmates, 14 members of civil society organizations, and 21 other key stakeholders working at a national level. We then analyzed the data and discussed it with key stakeholders during three national workshops. Finally, we used the results to inform how we designed and implemented the reintegration programs.
In Morocco, we partnered with the General Commission for the Management of Prisons and Reintegration to bring contextualized programming that addresses reintegration from an operational, societal, regional, and institutional angle. For inmates, the project helps provide vocational training, giving inmates technical job skills while helping orient them to life post-release. We also conducted workshops for over 120 institutional stakeholders that focused on increasing their capacity for program management, stress management, and nonviolent conflict resolution, as well as the design, monitoring, and evaluation of reintegration programs. Finally, to ensure successful reintegration into local communities and society, we hosted a series of civil society roundtables as well as two online awareness campaigns targeting Moroccan youth and prison inmates. We did this in an effort to mobilize their talents and create artwork focused on changing the stigma around inmates’ social reintegration.
The project has also led to a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the prison administrations in Morocco, Mali, and Niger, in June 2018. This document aims to promote and support regional cooperation as well as facilitate information, expertise, and good practice exchanges at the regional level. Additionally, the three institutions agreed to increase collaboration and exchange around three areas of common interest, which they identified during a ten-day regional exchange in May 2018. These are inmates’ reintegration, penitentiary security and management, and capacity building for prison staff. This agreement provides a framework for collaboration under which different activities can be implemented. This includes establishing training centers within prisons, organizing regional seminars on crisis management, and developing orientation guides.
Funded by the US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, this program began in December 2015 and ended in June 2018.