Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
David A. Paterson, Governor
Brian Fischer, Commissioner

Contact: Erik Kriss
Office of Public Information
(518) 457-8182

For immediate release:

June 18, 2008

Rwandan Prison Directors Attend DOCS’ “Superintendent’s Course”

Three senior Rwandan prison directors are in New York State this week to attend the Department of Correctional Services’ “Superintendent’s Course,” a 40-hour training session for new superintendents that covers key topics in running correctional facilities.

The visit is part of a developing cooperative relationship between DOCS and the Rwandan Prison System. It grew out of a trip to Rwanda last summer by three DOCS chaplains and a follow-up visit to New York State by Nyangezi Dativa Ngaboyisonga, director of Rwanda’s Central Kigali Prison. She toured the Bedford Hills, Sing Sing, Taconic and Fishkill Correctional Facilities and DOCS’ Albany Training Academy before meeting with Commissioner Brian Fischer.

Upon her return, Director Dativa urged that key Rwandan prison officials learn how things are done in New York State as Rwanda reorganizes its prison system. At the behest of Rwandan Prisons Service Commissioner Steven Balinda, Commissioner Fischer invited Rukundo Emamuel, Mujiji Vincent and Rwakojo Abaine Edouard to attend the Superintendent’s Course.

Mr. Vincent heads administration for Commissioner Balinda; Mr. Emamuel and Mr. Edouard are commanders of two of the five prison regions in the African nation, similar to “hub” superintendents in New York who oversee correctional facilities in nine geographic areas.

The Superintendents’ Course is being held at the Albany Training Academy on New Scotland Road from June 16-20, 2008. Commissioner Fischer, a longtime former superintendent himself, opened the session by outlining the Department’s goals and objectives. Other executive agency officials and veteran superintendents are covering topics such as mental health issues, reentry, diversity management, ethics, legal issues and leadership. The course includes panel discussions, an executive forum with the Commissioner, and small group dinners.

Before the three Rwandan prison directors return home, they also plan to visit Coxsackie Correctional Facility, a maximum security facility for men in Greene County, on Friday.

Rev. Petero Sabune, chaplain at Sing Sing, is accompanying the Rwandan directors during their time in New York. Rev. Sabune was one of the three chaplains who spent two weeks in Rwanda in July 2007 at the invitation of the country’s National Unity and Reconciliation Commission to explore and promote forgiveness and reconciliation between the perpetrators and survivors of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. The Rwandan prison reorganization comes in response to the aftermath of the Genocide.

Commissioner Fischer said: “During their trip to Rwanda last summer, our chaplains learned valuable lessons about forgiveness and reconciliation, lessons they are imparting here. I am glad we can return the favor by sharing some of our rehabilitative and reentry practices with our Rwandan colleagues.”

Mr. Vincent said: “We are used to the colonial, punitive system of incarceration. We want to shift from a punitive system to a rehabilitation system. In order to reduce the recidivism rate, we hope to reform offenders and turn them into useful citizens. It is a long-term solution to offenders: teach them, rehabilitate them, change their mindset.”

Mr. Emamuel said: “Youth rehabilitation, skills development, reentry programs could all be things we borrow from New York. We are learning about educational programs, vocational training. You are creating human beings; it’s different from the old system.”

The Rwandans found presentations in the Superintendents’ Course on health services administration and information management systems especially useful. They said “networking during lunch” with New York superintendents helps address many “practical matters.”

Rev. Sabune, Rev. Jobie Lewis of Fishkill Correctional Facility and Rev. Ronald Lemmert of Sing Sing Correctional Facility are planning a follow-up trip to Rwanda July 2-12.