The Post-Custody Journey: Understanding the Experiences of Women in Uganda

Introduction by Julie Truschel

Worldwide, women face many obstacles unique to gender when reentering society after incarceration.  They face escalated problems with economic hardship, social support, family relationships, and employment, just to name a few.  However, in no location are these issues more apparent than in Uganda.  The following guest article is offered by Nuruh Mbalyowere, Principal Rehabilitation and Reintegration Officer at the Uganda Prisons Service. 

Ms. Mbalyowere explains the many challenges faced by formerly incarcerated women in Uganda. A number of assistance programs are designed to aid with reentry, such as resettlement packages that are provided by the Prisons Service, including social worker follow-up for two years. International agencies offer additional assistance through income generating activities.  However, all programs are challenged with offering sufficient assistance due to a severe lack of resources.

The following presents an exploration of the post-custody experiences of women in Uganda, shedding light on the obstacles and social dynamics they encounter after undergoing the custodial process. Many thanks to Ms. Mbalyowere for contributing this article and helping us understand local concerns. 

Guest Article by Nuruh Mbalyowere, Principal Rehabilitation and Reintegration Officer, Uganda Prisons Service

On average, the Uganda Prisons Service releases 11,000 female inmates per year. Upon release from custody formerly incarcerated women confront a myriad of formidable hurdles that impede their reintegration into society. The persistent stigmas stemming from societal perceptions about their prior incarceration significantly hinder their prospects for successful reintegration.

In Uganda’s deeply entrenched male-controlled norms, women face compounded barriers during their reintegration journey. Gender-specific challenges intensify the struggle to reclaim their place within the community. Notably, women encounter stark obstacles in accessing property, land, and housing, primarily controlled by men within the masculine framework. The absence of property ownership or social claims leaves these women marginalized, unable to attain stability, and intensifies a vulnerability to poverty and societal rejection.

The inability to secure gainful employment post-custody is a pivotal concern. Despite possessing qualifications and skills, individuals encounter rejection from employers due to their criminal records. The amalgamation of societal stigma and inadequate support structures perpetuates a cycle of unemployment, curbing economic opportunities and impeding successful reintegration. Moreover, the reintegration process suffers due to the absence of effective support systems tailored to assist these individuals. There is a glaring lack of programs specifically designed for their needs, resulting in a deficiency of resources to aid transition back into society.

Addressing these multifaceted challenges is imperative to facilitate successful reintegration. Implementing comprehensive support programs tailored for women post-custody and advocating for policy reforms aimed at reducing discrimination against individuals with criminal records are crucial steps. Challenging the patriarchal structures that obstruct women’s access to property and societal claims is equally essential.

In summary, the reintegration of women post-custody in Uganda is complicated and hindered by societal stigmas, employment obstacles, and gender-specific challenges within a male-controlled society. Resolving these issues necessitates a holistic approach encompassing policy reforms, specialized support programs, and transformative societal changes to dismantle the cycle of exclusion and empower successful reintegration.