Ritual – Fort Portal, Uganda

Jail Hazing

I was incarcerated when I was seventeen years old. The policeman led to a cell full of older man of about 28years and older. When I reached the cell, one of the men – who I soon realized had a title of commander-in-chief – asked me if I had any money on me. Luckily, I had some and I gave it to him. He ordered everyone else not to touch me. In about half an hour, another inmate was walked into the cell by another guard. He was about 60years old. When the commander-in-chief asked him for money, he said he did not have any. Kenneth (the commander-in-chief) ordered other inmates to, what he called “introduce him to jail.”

They ordered him to strip butt naked. After stripping, he was ordered to bend over with his face against the wall. When he did, one of the inmates pulled out a horse pipe, which was connected to a water faucet. They opened the faucet and aimed the horse pipe to his anus. They horsed him down for a good ten minutes when the commander-in-chief ordered them to stop. I felt for this man but my remorse for him soon vanished when he welcomed the next inmate in a similar fashion. After a while, I also started welcoming younger kids of my age in the same way.


If a humanitarian read about this brutal jail introduction process, he or she might file a big lawsuit against the jail guards. However, such introduction processes, however horrific they may seem, they often have a rather positive ending. It is this initiation process that helps an individual to understand the traditions of his new environment. In essence, we can call it an orientation process. Such practices always take place during the liminal period. A liminal period is a transition period between two stages. I can also call a liminal period a period between two different identities. Because it is a transition, it is characterized by ambiguity, openness and indeterminacy. That is why it is easy to make a 60year old man strip butt naked. He was in that susceptible stage. He was going from one identity (a freeman) to another identity (inmate). He just had to do whatever was asked of him in order to build his new identity.