HARARE - Almost all of the women currently doing time at Gokwe Prison were jailed for violating narcotics laws.
Currently, there are eight female prisoners serving sentences at the prison compared to 150 men, according to latest statistics released by the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services.
More women are arrested for drugs-related crimes than men, statistics also show.
This also comes as the prison’s female population has grown at an alarming pace and the rate of imprisonment is high.
Presenting the state of the facility report last week, Superintendent Ottie Moyo said most women usually serve time at the correctional facility after being nabbed on drugs-related crimes.
“It is known in the Midlands Province that cases which we deal with here when it comes to women are to do with drugs,” Moyo said.
Moyo added that most males in Gokwe Prison are serving time for violence crimes.
“Most male inmates at this facility have been convicted on rape and assault cases and this is very worrying.”
The women in detention are not big drug traffickers.
They get busted for carrying very small quantities of drugs, mainly mbanje.
Inside the trafficking chains, women are the most vulnerable as they are easier to bust; they are cannon fodder.
Social exclusion, poverty, and gender-based violence are the three main reasons why women get involved in drug trafficking.
Most of the women who get busted are uneducated, poor, and have people dependent on their care: children, teenagers, and older or disabled relatives.
These circumstances inevitably worsen with their incarceration, both for them and their families. Once they are released, their criminal records often serve as a stumbling block to getting a job.
Moyo added that overcrowding was also a growing concern at Gokwe Prison.
“The dire situation is mainly attributed to the fact that we are a catchment area.
“We take prisoners from Gokwe North, Gokwe South, Zhombe and at times Kwekwe,” Moyo said.
“The situation puts a serious strain on us because the prison here does not match modern standards.
“There are no toilets and electricity inside the cells. We hope to have the resources to refurbish the prison so that it meets modern standards.”
Moyo said there were plans to establish a satellite facility in Gokwe-Nembudziya.
“This plan is for that facility to be serving Gokwe North. This plan of decongesting our prison is something which is in the pipeline and we are going to effect it once funds are available.”
Moyo also lamented that convicts do not have enough uniforms.
“We are appealing to the corporate world to make a donation for plain white T-shirts. We will then do the printing on our own,” he said.
Though the government availed maize to the facility, Moyo said they were having challenges supplying the gaol with relish, adding that transport was also a challenge.
“Our major worry is that when we release the convicts, there will be no money to take them to their homes. It will be a challenge especially for someone from another area.
‘Because they want to raise money to go back to their areas, they will commit crimes which will subsequently see them finding their way back to prison.”
Moyo said the scenario was worrying as this defeated the idea of rehabilitating the offenders — if it becomes a vicious circle.
“The main reason for incarceration is not to punish but to correct.”