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Mukobeko Maximum Correctional Centre.

Correctional service reforms critical

GOVERNMENT has initiated reforms to make the life of inmates enjoyable in our country’s correctional facilities.Never before has Government been open to discuss the welfare and human rights of inmates than now.
Little wonder the Zambia Prisons Service has been re-christened Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) to give it a human face and better perspective of its objectives.
ZCS has also demonstrated transparency in the management of inmates by allowing non-governmental organisations to undertake research in correctional facilities.
Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) was recently allowed to conduct a study on human rights in correctional facilities.
DAPP and Panos Institute Southern Africa implemented a European Union-funded project, ‘Prisoners’ Rights are Human Rights’, which has contributed to increased protection of rights and improved living conditions of inmates, previously known as prisoners.
The project has strengthened access to legal services among inmates by conducting activities such as training paralegals among the inmates and establishing a network of paralegals, and the trained prisoners’ legal rights peer groups.
Besides DAPP, the Church has a long history of working with correctional service authorities by providing spiritual and material support to inmates.
However, more needs to be done to accomplish the much-needed reforms.
Re-integrating inmates back into society remains one of the biggest challenges facing the country.
Society has a tendency to stigmatise inmates, who are not readily welcomed back by relatives, spouses, friends and even the Church.
It is surprising that even church members who are expected to forgive shun the brother and sister they were visiting in correctional facilities.
As a result, most former inmates end up destitute or commit crimes so as to get back to correctional facilities, which become their ‘home’.
This has to change and it can only happen when there is partnership between the correctional services, Church and the business community.
During the commemoration of the International Day of Prayer for Inmates in Kitwe on Saturday, President Edgar Lungu said partnerships between Government, the Church and the business community are critical in ensuring better management of inmates.
The theme of the International Day of Prayer for Inmates was ‘Empowering inmates is an investment in national development and public safety; From a prisoner to a governor’.
President Lungu noted that cooperation helps to achieve an all-round empowerment for inmates that in turn results in peace in communities.
Until now, the relationship between correctional services and the business community has tended to be a strict business affair.
This is so because the correctional service function is provided exclusively by the State.
Hence, the relationship has not been packaged any better.
Yet, there is a huge opportunity for the private sector to collaborate with the correctional services in employing skilled former inmates and afford them an opportunity to prove their worth in applying newly acquired trades.
Industry should come to the service of former inmates who have received various vocational skills such as carpentry, metal fabrication and agriculture.
There is also an opportunity to support inmates with sports equipment and skills without looking for a return.
Inmates could also be schooled in music to keep a human being fulfilled.