Editor's Comment

More prisons needed

THE construction of new prisons in three districts will help decongest the current facilities and improve living conditions for prisoners.
We welcome the announcement by the Zambia Prisons Service that government has allocated K20 million in this year’s budget for the construction of new prisons in Monze, Kalabo and Luwingu districts.
Prisoners are living in almost inhuman conditions because of the unending congestion.
Nearly all the prisons in the country are overcrowded, with the facilities sometimes hosting three times the number of inmates they were meant for.
This has made it difficult for the Zambia Prisons Service to provide quality correctional services to the prisoners.
Under the current set-up, the primary goal of imprisonment is rehabilitation so that the prisoners can be good citizens again after being released from prison.
The punitive aspect is secondary.
But the harsh conditions currently obtaining in Zambia’s State prisons do not support rehabilitation and reform.
Once released, the former convicts come out of prison with bitterness.
Some of them adopt a hostile attitude towards the mainstream society because they blame it for all the suffering they went through while in incarceration.
This partly explains why many of them commit all kinds of crimes after being released.
We are happy government is fully aware of this challenge and is doing everything possible to improve the situation.
This includes the completion of the Mwembeshi prison near Lusaka and the construction of new ones.
Commissioner of Prisons Percy Chato said on Thursday Luwingu State prison is expected to open this month-end while 90 percent of works have been done on the Kalabo prison.
Mr Chato explained that the facilities are medium level and that they will be able to accommodate over 100 prisoners at once.
We applaud the efforts the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Prisons Service are making towards the improvement of conditions in the country’s correctional facilities.
The creation of a humane environment contributes to the successful rehabilitation of prisoners.
And reform is important because it ensures that society benefits from the former convicts.
This is why the Zambia Prisons Service offers various skills such as carpentry and joinery, auto mechanical repairs, tailoring and designing and many others.
The rationale is that there is still some good in the convicts which can be harnessed through psychological, social and economic rehabilitation.
But it will be extremely difficult to bring this good out of the prisoners if they are kept in harsh and punishing conditions that breed a hardened attitude towards society.
This attitude is fuelled by the packing of large numbers of the inmates like sardines in facilities meant for far fewer numbers.
Members of the public have been horrified to see in the media how inmates sleep in some of our prisons.
There is barely room to stretch one’s limb or turn to the other side because there is simply no space.
As a result, instead of being remorseful for their crimes and seeking reconciliation with society through serving their prison terms, they harbour a strong desire for revenge.
As far as the prisoners are kept in such de-humanising conditions, they feel that they are the victims.
It is in this light we urge the Zambia Prisons Service to continue lobbying government to allocate more money towards the construction of more prisons and expansion of the existing facilities.
The management of correctional services has become a governance issue because it falls in the ambit of human rights.
Prisoners are covered by the guarantees provided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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