Prisons to host Family Week

HARARE - Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services is holding the second edition of “family day visits” at Chikurubi Maximum Prison next week.

Officer-in-Charge of Chikurubi Maximum Prison, assistant commissioner Tonderai Mutiwaringa, yesterday urged relatives and friends of inmates to visit their incarcerated relatives to promote their smooth integration back into society.

Although being separated from your family forms part of the punishment of a custodial prison sentence, supporters of family friendly days say the positive effect they have on families has a wider effect on the community.

“Not only do children benefit from quality contact with their imprisoned parents but decent family visits can play a vital role in rehabilitation.

Arranged by the chaplaincy, the Prison Family Week will run from Monday to Friday next week. The visits will be open to all prisoners and the facility will open its doors to wives, husbands, children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces.

“We are calling on families and friends to visit their loved ones.

“Our gates will open at 8:30 am throughout the week. Families can bring food to share with their loved ones.

“This is an opportunity where inmates interact with the society during their time of incarceration.

“This makes the reintegration process easier,” he said.

The prison system is acutely aware of the stress a period in custody places on a relationship and they do try to make these events into relaxed and enjoyable events.

The prison will also relax the restrictions on visitors bringing in food to share during the visits .

Traditional visits, which take place over a table under close scrutiny of a prison guard, are hard to organise, and often involve a difficult journey and prisoners’ children of all ages being searched.

No wonder, then, that the number of prison visits has fallen despite the prison population rising and that haWe are calling on families anlf of inmates lose contact with their families while they are in jail.

The family day visits are meant to release important emotions in both parents and children and increases the spiritual bond between parents and children.

Asked if conjugal visits will be allowed, Mutiwaringa said Chikurubi Maximum Prison does not yet have the facilities for such.

A conjugal visit is a scheduled period in which an inmate of a prison or jail is permitted to spend several hours or days in private with a visitor, usually their legal spouse.

The generally recognised basis for permitting such visits in modern times is to preserve family bonds and increase the chances of success for a prisoner’s eventual return to life after release from prison.

They also provide an incentive to inmates to comply with the various day-to-day rules and regulations of the prison.

“As of now we do not have the private rooms or designated rooms for that purpose,” he said.

Turning to prison life at Chikurubi Maximum Prison, Mutiwaringa said as of yesterday, the prison — which has a holding capacity of 1 365 — was currently housing 2 495 inmates.

“Yes we have a challenge there in terms of overcrowding but in terms of (food) rations we are able to meet the demand,” he said.

“Prisoners have meat three times a week, as well as vegetables and beans on the other days. They have bread in the morning with tea, our rations are very stable,” he said.

Mutiwaringa’s assertions were, however, not corroborated by an inmate at the prison who said he had last tasted meat long back, and spoke of a monotonous daily diet of sadza, spinach or cabbage.

Mutiwaringa, however, admitted that Chikurubi Maximum Prison was facing challenges in procuring drugs for inmates so much that health experts were only prescribing medication and telling inmates to ask family members to purchase the drugs for them.

He added that the prison was appealing to donors to assist in plugging the health supply gaps but insisted ZPCS was working around the clock to ensure that inmates have access to drugs.

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