Our Work | Policy Development and Advocacy (PDA)

Prisons Transformation – Policy Reform, Advocacy and Accountability

The work Sonke does both in and outside of prisons spans over two of its units – Community Education and Mobilisation (CEM) and Policy Development and Advocacy (PDA). The CEM Unit’s objective is the implementation of the One Man Can (OMC) campaign in correctional service centres across the Western Cape. The PDA Unit advocates for law and policy reform, and advocacy to hold government accountable to address sexual abuse, HIV and TB prevention and access to treatment, broader prisoner rights violations, and strengthening independent oversight and accountability mechanisms for prisons.

The aims for the Prisons Transformation project are:

  • A decrease in the number of inmates who experience sexual abuse, and contract HIV and TB.
  • A government that is able to implement evidence-based good practices and is held accountable for preventing and eradicating sexual violence and HIV in prisons.
  • A galvanised civil society that works collectively to promote and protect prisoners’ rights.
  • Strong, independent oversight and accountability mechanisms for the Department of Correctional Services (DCS).

To achieve these aims, Sonke leverages multiple advocacy approaches including the following:

  • Advocacy for law and policy reform to prevent rights violations in DCS centres, with a particular focus on sexual abuse, HIV, TB, ill-treatment and torture of inmates.
  • Monitoring and, where necessary, legally intervening in specific cases of rights violations.
  • Training and technical support for the DCS on sexual violence and HIV prevention.
  • Applied research to build the evidence base for strategic advocacy to improve policies and practices for the prevention of sexual violence, HIV and TB, and other rights violations in detention settings.
  • Media advocacy to stimulate public discourse on health, sexual violence, and human rights in detention settings.
  • Civil society coalition building to mobilise stakeholders and hold government accountable for rights violations in prisons.
  • Advocacy for law reform to strengthen independent oversight and accountability mechanisms for DCS.

Sonke serves on the National Task Team (NTT) for TB and HIV in Correctional Centres, and is Chair of its Human Rights, Advocacy and Communications Working Group. The NTT facilitates implementation of Department of Health and DCS National Guidelines for the Management of TB and HIV in Correctional Centres.

Sonke is co-founder and co-coordinator of the Detention Justice Forum, a coalition of NGOs and activists working to advance detainee rights and well-being. Learn more about the Forum at www.detentionjusticeforum.org.za.

Current Projects

Male prison rape survivors speak out
As part of Sonke’s Digital Stories project, three prisoners have bravely stepped forward to tell their stories of sexual abuse behind bars.
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