ALTERNATIVE TO CUSTODY - Youth Criminal Justice Reform in Malawi Offering Life Changing Alternatives

Alternative to Custody is a new project offering young people and children an alternative to custodial sentences in prison. In prison boys face over crowded cells, where 20 boys are jammed into a room so small they cannot all lie down at the same time.  There is no education, learning, rehabilitation or programme to reintegrate. Once the sentence is over they are turfed out onto the street.

Alternative to Custody is a new project, offering a much needed alternative to the damaging but common practice of giving children and young adults long custodial sentences in overcrowded prisons with horrendous conditions.

In its place, education and vocational training are offered as a rehabilitation programme, as well as cognitive behavioural support to prepare young offenders for re-integration into their communities.

We have recently opened a new alternative to prison- a community based rehabilitation centre. We also continue to work directly with the two major youth prisons, offering vocational training and cognitive behavioural rehabilitation

We provide practical training in a trade, so when young people finish their custodial sentence they have a chance to start their own business, offering them a route into independent adulthood away from crime. We are in the process of expanding this part of our programme so we can offer tools, equipment and training to become:

•          Bricklayer

•          Bicycle taxi service

•          Bicycle and Car Mechanic/Engineer

•          A solar panel to run a mobile phone charging station.

These are all instant businesses, with easy maintenance, low entry costs and a guaranteed market.

As the young people we work with have experienced serious hardship we work with them to build their self-esteem, confidence and wellbeing. We do this through life coaching, together with giving them time as teenagers again, through activities like football matches and movie nights.

As there can often be stigma and fear associated with people who have spent time in prison, we work with families and communities to help them welcome young people home.