Rwanda to introduce virtual visits in prisons

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The Minister of Justice, Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, has revealed that Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS) plans to roll out e-visitations. The announcement was made during the third leadership retreat of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) on Thursday, June 29, in Nyamata, Bugesera district.

This technological advancement aims to revolutionise the conventional prison system by introducing virtual visitations, enabling inmates to connect with their loved ones through digital platforms.

Ugirashebuja stressed that this was part of the modernisation of the criminal justice policy, saying, “We are considering the implementation of e-visits in prisons, where inmates will be able to connect, see, and communicate with their family and friends through video platforms, eliminating the need for face-to-face visits.”

Although specific operational details were not disclosed, Minister Ugirashebuja assured that the RCS is actively working on the development of this system.

Examples of e-visits in other countries demonstrate the process involved. For instance in Sri Lanka, visitors are first required to register their identities before applying for online visits.

The registration process requires the submission of a copy of their national ID or other official identity documents. Once registered, visitors can reserve visiting time using their unique registration number, which must be certified by a prison officer before the visitation can take place.

Only one family member is allowed to register on behalf of the inmate, and sharing the registration number with others is strictly prohibited, and can result in the suspension of visitation privileges.

During video calls, the registered individual must appear, but others can join with the consent of the inmate. To ensure security, prison officers monitor the video calls, immediately disconnecting any conversations that pose a threat or involve inappropriate content. In such cases, the e-visit facility is temporarily suspended.

RCS officials emphasise that the introduction of e-visits is still a project subject to potential changes. Detailed explanations will be provided once the system is approved.

As Rwanda actively pursues initiatives to enhance the well-being of inmates and facilitate their reintegration into society, the implementation of e-visits represents a significant milestone for the country’s justice system.

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