Prisons' boss lifts lid on dire conditions

HARARE - Inmates are surviving through the grace of God as the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) has been hit by a critical shortage of basics such as food, water, sanitation, accommodation and clothing, an official has said.

Agrey Huggins Machingauta, the deputy commissioner of prisons, yesterday told the parliamentary thematic committee on Human Rights that the ZPCS was failing to provide clean water and proper sanitation to the more than 17 000 inmates jailed in the country’s 72 prisons.

Machingauta said Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison is the hardest hit by water shortages. The gaol has had no water for more than a decade due to a $2 million debt owed to Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa).

“Inmates are entitled to clean water and proper sanitation, unfortunately, the prevailing situation is pathetic,” Machingauta told the legislators.

“It is by the grace of God that to date we have not encountered any serious outbreaks of water-borne diseases.”

SUFFERING...Prison inmates around Zimbabwe are living in unhealthy conditions.

He said water cuts and rationing both by Zinwa and local authorities did not take into consideration that prisons require running water every day. He called on Parliament to add its voice to calls on Zinwa to provide prisoners with running water.

Machingauta said  they were failing to adequately feed prisoners in accordance with the second schedule to section 50 (a) of the Prison (General) Regulation, which sets out inmates diet. 

ZPS has 23 farms around the country which could produce food for inmates.

“However, this is not possible given the lack of funding which results in the late delivery and at times non-availability of farming inputs and equipment,” Machingauta said.

He disclosed that each inmate was entitled to two pairs of prison uniforms, protective clothing, four blankets and a sleeping mat, but it was failing to meet that requirement.

The prisons’ boss said the correctional service was in a health fix as the current levels of essential drug stocks were at 55 percent against the expected levels of 85 percent.

ZPCS cannot acquire equipment to carry out medical checks and tests on inmates without having to rely on referral hospitals which they owe $545 397 in unpaid bills.

Overcrowding in the country’s prisons has also exposed inmates to diseases such as Tuberculosis with the 46 main prisons and its 23 satellite prisons, which have a holding capacity of 17 000, already

accommodating 17 318. Out of that figure, 14 462 are already convicted and 2 866 are on remand while 80 are juveniles and 308 are females.

“Our prison population reflects that we are already overcrowded, meaning inmates’ rights to proper shelter is already compromised,” he told the committee chaired by Manicaland Senator Mike Nyambuya.

“The consequences of overcrowding vary from the spread of communicable diseases such as TB, budgetary constraints on government and security threats.”

The dire situation obtaining in prisons resulted in ZPCS’ care for special classes of offenders such as women in general, women with children, pregnant women, mentally retarded offenders as well as juveniles being heavily compromised.

Article 10 (3) of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, for example, requires that juveniles shall be segregated from adults and be accorded treatment appropriate to their age but they are currently being mixed.

“Women inmates obviously have their own prisons but there is still a challenge in the provision of pre-natal and post-natal care and the upkeep of children who are in prison with their mothers,” he said.

Machingauta revealed that ex-prisoners suffered even after their release as society was not ready to accept them back.

This resulted in ex-prisoners committing fresh offences even after rehabilitation that led them back into prison, further compounding the accommodation problem. “How many people are comfortable to see a rapist or murderer back in society? If a person fails to get enough rehabilitation in prison coupled with unwillingness of society to receive offenders, he will inevitably find himself back in prison and the cycle begins again,” Machingauta said.

Senator Fortune Charumbira urged the correctional services to release inmates into society through traditional leaders to fight stigma.

Charumbira said society would not be comfortable waking up one morning to see a known criminal back because they would not be sure if one escaped or completed his term. Machingauta appealed to government to ensure the correctional service is adequately funded to ensure they operate according to modern standards that emphasise rehabilitation of criminals as opposed to punishing them.

“The issue of inadequate resources has become the most played record but it is vital and it will be played even if it develops scratch marks,” he said.

“Without adequate budgetary allocation and timely and realistic target releases, we are placed in a very difficult position. We are seriously handicapped and this needs urgent interventions from the powers that be.”

However, on a positive note, Parliament was informed that ZPCS has set up an institution at Hwahwa Young Offenders Prison in Midlands Province where they can further their studies. He said children of inmates whose relatives are reluctant to accept them may attend nursery schools together with prison officers’ children within prison camps.

The prison boss said specialist departments had also been established to cater for the rehabilitation needs of inmates.

“We have chaplains, teachers, and social scientists, artisans of different trades who take care of spiritual, education, counselling and training of inmates for their successful reintegration into society,” he said.

Comments (5)

Hey the dire situations in prisons stems from serious mismanagement of funds at the so called security sector institutions. Funds for the bosses' vehicles and other things are available yet no funds to buy fuel to take vasungwaz to courts etc. Go there and see serious abuse of vehicles by senior and some low level workers. Vehicles are are being used to ferry personal effects like grain from personal farms and home. This is the same at ZNA and ZRP. Bosses and spouse are heavily guarded and move around with top of the range vehicles. Shame on the leaders. Cry dabeloved Zimbo!!

Tawa Zaru - 29 May 2014

How an organisation with 23 farms and Human capital of 17 000 cant e of those mangers of our stitutions are. What else do you need? These men and women can produce what is enough to feed the entire nation honestly. All that required is some little innovations, but alas people think of stealing 24/7.

Ziziharinanyanga - 30 May 2014

The end result of appointing retired soldiers without the slightest of business acumen to run institutions and parastatals is a way that leads nowhere but down. What new ideas can people like Zimondi come up with? They have invaded farms, looted diamonds and now they want to grab conservancies and to hell with what the people or the International community say or think as long as it makes them richer.

Dr Know - 30 May 2014

You got it spot-on, Ziziharinanyanga. With a little more innovation, a little less selfishness and just a titbit of humanity, we have enough land and manpower to feed not only the prison population, but the entire nation! But who cares?

Johno - 30 May 2014

No rehabilitation occurs under such dire conditions. Instead the criminals harden. Prison officers are beneffiting from the farms. The prisoners themselves do not get anything out of their hard labour

Truth professed - 30 May 2014

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