Prison Reform in Southern Sudan: Pads for Prisons Project

University of the Fraser Valley

15 August 2008


A specific need has been identified by the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) for assistance in building the capacity of prison management to lead the process of prison reform; including enhancing the capacity of the Southern Sudan Prison Service to respond more effectively to the needs and circumstances of children, women and other groups in prison with special needs.

The Prison Service has all but been destroyed by two decades of civil war.  Very few prison facilities have survived the impact of the war and the service itself is largely newly constituted.  Prison personnel consist mainly of demobilized soldiers and officers with little if any relevant training.  The legal framework and the prison policies and regulations require major revisions and are currently not well known or understood by people working in the system.  People in prison with special needs, such as children and women, are particularly affected by the current state of the system.  Many of them should be dealt with outside of prisons and adequate specialized facilities do not currently exist.  Most prisons also house numerous mentally ill individuals who are not offenders, but are detained simply because basic mental health facilities are not available.

At the invitation of the GoSS, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in partnership with the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform (ICCLR), the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), and the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) and with the financial support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has developed a project to assist in building the capacity of prison management to lead the process of prison reform in Southern Sudan and improve the capacity of the Prison Service to respond more effectively and humanely to the needs and circumstances of those groups within the prison population with special needs. Over the past six months, members of UFV have been involved in this project in Southern Sudan.

Women in prisons are one of the vulnerable groups being assisted in the project.  An assessment of the situation of women in prison found that one of the issues that women in the prisons are facing is poor prison conditions and a total lack of health care and sanitary facilities including sanitary pads.  During their menstrual cycle women have, at most, a cloth to absorb the menstruation.  This can be extremely humiliating and devastating for the women in prisons.  One prisoner noted that she was tied to a tree during the time of her menstrual cycle, as the guard did not want her to make "a mess" on the prison floors.  Vivienne Chin, Project Coordinator with the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy, and a few students from UFV have decided to do something to help these women.    

Pads for Prisons  is a project that involves UFV students, members of UFV staff and faculty, as well as community members sewing reusable washable sanitary pads for the women in South Sudanese prisons.  The initial goal was to sew 600 pads for the female prisoners and guards for the Central Women’s Prison in the capital city of Juba.  It is assumed that each woman would need six pads per month and there are currently 100 female prisoners and guards.  Guards have been included because they are equally lacking in sanitary supplies and helping prisoners without helping them may not reflect the right message.  Within 3 months, over 450 pads have been made and more women are joining the project to help.  The goal has now been increased to try to supply all women prisoners and guards with a set of 8 washable pads each which means some 4,800 pads.

In conjunction with the donation of pads, the project also includes life skills workshops during which the women prisoners as well as the guards will be taught how to make their own pads and perhaps even clothing so that they have the skills to create income for themselves whilst in prison and even after they are released.  The project has already provided 2 new sewing machines for the central prison for women.  Plans are being drawn up to purchase sewing machines for other prisons in Southern Sudan.

A very exciting development has been the coming on board of the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge, BC.  A Correctional Officer overseeing a specialized work program within the institution wrote to us suggesting that there were some 15-24 female inmates who wished to help and become involved in the making of the pads for the female inmates in Southern Sudan.  From existing fabric and from whatever they could collect from donations, they have made nearly 300 pads to date.  It is an amazing contribution to the project with all kinds of important benefits coming out of it.  The involvement of Alouette has not only touched the project coordinators but also and more importantly the women in the prisons in Southern Sudan who are so thrilled and astonished that anyone would want to help them let alone other prisoners in Canada.  

If you are interested in finding out more about the project, how you can join a sewing group, how you can donate money to those who doing the sewing, or if you have ideas that could help make this project more of a success, please contact me.


Thank you for your interest and support.


Mellissa Marlatt




p.s. If you have any questions about the project, please feel free to contact:


Yvon Dandurand

Associate Vice-President

Research and Graduate Studies

University of the Fraser Valley

Tel:  604.864.4654

Email:  yvon.dandurand@ucfv.ca



Debi Block

Assistant to Associate Vice-President

Research and Graduate Studies

University of the Fraser Valley

Tel:  604.864.4639

Email:  debi.block@ucfv.ca