Zim prisons are hellholes

HARARE - Last week, a parliamentary delegation visited prisons in the capital — Chikurubi Maximum, Chikurubi Female as well as Harare Central prisons — to assess the conditions in which inmates live.

This came as Chikurubi Maximum Prison was, in March, rocked by riots over food and other living conditions.

The major reason why offenders are thrown into jail is for purposes of correction and rehabilitation.

We are not in any way condoning crime and its commission.

However, prison conditions must not harden the offenders. It is public knowledge that Zimbabwe’s prisons are overcrowded with the Justice ministry admitting that the current population of over

20 000 in the country’s jails exceeds their holding capacity of 17 000.

If the prisons hold more than their capacity, an obvious strain is registered in attempts to resource them. As a result there is inevitable shortage of not only living space, but also food and drugs.

The provision of adequate potable water and ablution facilities are also strained, placing inmates’ health at risk.

Even though incarcerated, prisoners remain human beings who are entitled to basic rights as enshrined in the Constitution. Like every other citizen of the country, they must be properly sheltered, meaning that the country’s correctional facilities need sprucing up.

Prison time is meant to counter habitual offending and as such must prepare inmates for re-integration into society.

Rehabilitation can only be ensured if the prisoners are not placed in health-threatening conditions.

They must enjoy proper medical care and also be protected from all other forms of ill-treatment while they serve time in jail.

Contacts with the outside world must be maintained as this is the society they will go back into.

Authorities must ensure prisoners learn new skills while in prison to assist them with working life once they are released.

We believe it is important for government to consider other forms of punishment, especially involving petty crimes to mitigate against overcrowding in the country’s prisons.

Maybe the current community service is an option whose scope is worth widening to embrace all lighter offences and first offenders.

Fines could also be considered in lieu of prison time, while those prisoners who are not yet convicted must be given bail.

Pre-trial diversion programmes could also be considered for juvenile offenders.

The current situation makes our prisons hellholes and instead of providing correctional services, they harden criminals, leaving little hope for proper rehabilitation.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.