Since October 2012 vivo is also working in the prison of Gulu. The approximately 700 male inmates and approx. 300 female inmates are also often formerly abducted by the LRA and suffer as well from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. The mental health well-being of the inmates is also influenced by the long pre-trial detention times (Uganda has too little personnel, e.g. only a few judges responsible for capital offences) and the general poverty: the inmates are dependent on their relatives to provide for food and legal fees.
Often our clients report to us, that before they were arrested they could live more or less well with the memories of their traumatic experiences, but since they are in prison, they experience everyday stress due to the prison conditions – and the memories in the form of images and nightmares disturb them again more often, up to a significant level of suffering. Therefore we also offer in prison diagnostic interviews and the Narrative Exposure Therapy, but also supportive general counselling for everyday worries and problems; e.g. one client told us how helpless it makes him feel, to know that his orphaned younger siblings have to survive by themselves as a child-headed household and that he has no means of communicating with them in order to learn how they are doing or to support them.
vivo’s work is not about judging whether an inmate is guilty as charged, but to treat the inmates as our clients with mental health problems.
We also often hear from our clients in prison how they had been forced to kill others. The practices of the rebels (e.g. to force abducted children to kill their own family members) intentionally aim at destroying the original identity of a child and thus possibly leading to the development of a perpetrator personality. After forcing abducted children into perpetratorship, they are told that they can now never return home and that the rebels are now their only family. Through this manipulation and the scattering of a peaceful belief system, children are turned into perpetrators and as a survival strategy they start using violence voluntarily and intentionally themselves, also with experiences of joy.
These perpetrators often have problems to reintegrate peacefully into a post-conflict society through changing their learned behaviour of a violent reaction to feelings of aggression and revenge. The vivo counsellors treat these clients with the newly developed treatment called FORNET (NET for Forensic Offender Rehabilitation). Similar to the NET, also in FORNET the client is working through the past traumatic events and in addition events with perpetratorship are discussed. At the end of the treatment the counsellor focuses on the future of the client and compiles practical non-violent behavioural options on how to react towards and deal with anger, aggression and feelings of revenge. This provides a new perspective for the client on potential conflict situations in everyday interaction with fellow men and enables the client to consciously decide for a non-violent alternative.