Female prisoners to benefit from open jail system

HARARE - Female prisoners are set to benefit from an open prison system government intends to establish in Marondera for inmates with children amid concerns of serious food shortages at the country’s correctional facilities.

Appearing before a parliamentary thematic committee on human rights to on the state of the justice delivery system in the country last week, Fortune Chasi, deputy minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said the facility will accommodate women whose crimes were not severe.

Chasi said there would be need for the country’s correctional services to distinguish between  high and low offenders.

“The issue of mothers with babies is a matter of concern to us as a ministry. It is saddening to see mothers detained together with their children who may not have done anything wrong,” said Chasi.

“We are currently working on an open prison in Marondera because our current laws relating to prisons were not meant to deal with children especially their dietary requirements.

“The issue is operational and the prison authorities are the ones who determine which prisoners deserve such an environment because when they keep them they get to

understand what kind of people they are, whether they are flight risks or not,” Chasi added on.

Open prison is a system where inmates with relatively light sentences can check in at the prisons, but are free to visit their families during weekends.

In some instances, prisoners may be allowed to go back home every evening if they are able to report to the prison in the morning.

Chasi also revealed that government was set to introduce a pre-trial diversion programme for offending children where they are not subjected to the normal court procedures but after committing an offence.

He said the children would be given counselling services as a way to rehabilitate them.

Chasi also told legislators that the pre-trial diversion programme will help to ease congestion in the country’s prisons given the fact that government is faced with cash shortages.

“It is common knowledge that resources are an issue and the prison services is not awash with money.

It also is very expensive to keep prisoners,” he said.

He paid tribute to First Lady Grace Mugabe for taking custody of some of the children from prison at her orphanage in Mazowe saying it helped ease the burden the correctional services department had to shoulder.

Responding to questions by the committee chaired by Zanu PF Senator Mike Nyambuya who wanted to know when the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) will eventually take over the registration of voters from the Registrar General’s office, Chasi said the electoral authority was looking into the matter.

He said Zec was currently in liaison with the RG’s office to work out a feasible plan that will enable the electoral body to also learn from the RG’s experience.

 

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