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Minister of Home Affairs Ngosa Simbyakula (second from right) cuts a ribbon during the official opening of new Luwingu Prison as Northern Province Minister Freedom Sikazwe (right) and Commissioner of Prisons Percy Chato (centre) witness the occasion.

Zambia Prisons Service at 50

The Zambia Prisons Service dates back to 1964 when Zambia attained its independence. The Service has however, undergone several evolutions to attain its current status.
The history of the service is bound to the history of the nation’s administrative evolution and this is how it all began.
In 1890, the British South African Company (BSA CO) under a man called John Cecil Rhodes entered North-Western Rhodesia and signed the Lochner Concession with King Lubosi Lewanika, through its representative, Frank Lochner,  to conduct mining activities in the area. In return, the company would provide social services to the territory.
In 1899, the British government issued the Barotseland- North-Western Order-In-Council which gave the company authority to govern North-Western Rhodesia. It was this order which provided for the establishment of a police force called the Barotse Native Police.
Before the establishment of the Prisons Service, the Police Force performed an additional role of conveyance and safe custody of prisoners alongside the maintenance of law and order.
The growth of the BSA CO’s scope of operations towards the far North- East brought with it some elements of administrative challenges that necessitated the division of the region into two: the North-Western Rhodesia and North-Eastern Rhodesia, which was administered by a man named Robert Codrington.
This necessitated the formation of another police that would policy the newly created territory (North- Eastern Rhodesia). In 1900, the North- Eastern Rhodesia Order-In-Council, which among other things defined the area, was formulated. This order also provided for the establishment of a police Force called the North-Eastern Rhodesia Constabulary which was to perform the same duties as the Barotse Native Police.
The earliest reference to prisons in the archives dates back to 13th October 1904 and is contained in a letter written by Henry Rangeley, magistrate of North-Western Rhodesia to the administrator of the territory, suggesting that an Order-In-Council be enacted to repeal the Colonial Prisoner’s Removal Act of 1884, from the territory.
This was based on two reasons. Firstly, the territory did not have enough prison facilities which could properly accommodate prisoners that were serving long sentences. Secondly, the then system of leaving Barotse Native Police in charge of convicts was not tenable.
As a solution to these problems, Rangeley suggested that prisoners of sentences over one year should be sent to Southern Rhodesia for custody. The policy of transferring prisoners to Southern Rhodesia for custody was given effect to by the Prisoners’ Removal Proclamation of 1907 as amended by proclamation No.32 of 1910
In 1911, the two territories amalgamated, this time to form Northern Rhodesia. This meant the merging of the two police forces to form the Northern Rhodesia Police Force in 1912. Despite all these administrative changes, the Prisons Service was still non-existent and the Barotse Native Police continued administering prisons.
Several attempts were made to establish an independent Prisons Service and the first major one was in 1912. This was after the administrators of the unified territory by then discovered that there were no specific regulations or rules pertaining to the administration and control of prisons and prisoners lodged therein in the territory.
Following this observation, it was not long before the Prison ordinance made its appearance in the statutes, followed shortly by the first Prison regulations. These regulations were aimed at forming a basis of prison organisation and administration. Following these regulations, Prison management became the responsibility of the Attorney General.
In 1923, a Prisons Board was established consisting of the attorney General, Treasurer, Commandant of Northern Rhodesia Police, Secretary for Native Affairs and the Assistant Attorney General.
The Assistant Attorney General, who was the secretary of the Board explained that the reasons for the formation of the Board was to relieve his office from the responsibility of administering prisons and as an alternative to the reorganization of the prison system.
This Board, despite it not having statutory powers made wide spread and strong recommendations that necessitated the appointment of the Chief Inspector of Prisons and the substitution of civilian warders for Native Police warders at all central prisons.  He suggested among other things to have an independent prisons department or that management of prisons be placed under the responsibility of the Police as it was before.
The latter option was adopted which meant that prisons were under the Police Command again. This came in 1927 and was followed by the minor amendments of the Prison Ordinance and Rules of 1912.
The title ‘Commissioner of Prisons’ was formulated in 1931 with Captain P.R Wardroper becoming the first holder of this title. Remember that the Prisons were still under the toils of the Police Force.
An attempt to have an independent Prisons Department, which was now successful, came in 1938.  Mr T.C. Fynn, Secretary to the then Southerns Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) Department of Justice and Director of Prisons was invited to assess how possible it was to establish an independent Prisons Service in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia).
His criticism and recommendations were much the same as in the previous reports. He emphasised the necessity for a drastic re-organisation, the separation from the police and the appointment of the Commissioner of Prisons. The colonial administration studied the recommendations. Though not in total agreement, it regarded the matter as urgent and wasted no time to act upon the recommendations.
However, the outbreak of World War II in 1939 resulted in an inevitable postponement of the re-organisation until after the war in 1945.
However, way back in 1942, the first Commissioner of Prisons in the name of R.L. Worsely was appointed. Unlike his predecessors, he had no connection with the police. Soon after his appointment he lobbied for an increase in the number of prison officers and improvement on their conditions of service.
A great deal of his preparatory work and his skillful way of putting his case before the government resulted in the Prisons Ordinance and Rules of 1947 and the final constitution of the  Prisons Department’s separation from the Northern Rhodesia Police Force, hence the birth of the Northern Rhodesia Prisons Service. The Ordinance covered all aspects of prison administration and contained new conditions of service for African warders.
As all this was happening, the Service had already taken over training of its recruits from the police in 1945 and established its training depot in Broken Hill.
In 1953, Prisons underwent another major evolution in history following the establishment of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The amalgamation of the territories meant that the Prison Services were also to be merged and be referred to as Federal Prisons under the leadership of D.C. Cameron who was the Commissioner of Northern Rhodesia Prisons Service.
This would go up to 1963 when the federation ended. The end of this consortium saw the name reverting back to Northern Rhodesia Prisons Service with its headquarters now in Broken Hill (Kabwe) at Coronation Flats. It was at this time that O.V Garrat was appointed from oversees on 8th January 1964, to head the Service.
The same year (1964), Northern Rhodesia became independent. This was followed by the subsequent change of name to ‘Zambia.’ This development meant that even the Northern Rhodesia Prisons Service would change its name to Zambia Prisons Service. This marked the birth of the Zambia Prisons Service we know today with a white man, O.V. Garrat as Commissioner.
With this evolution, it can further be concluded that, though the Zambia Prisons Service was born at independence day. Its origin is deep rooted into the colonial era, first under the police, then under the office of the Attorney General in 1912, later in 1927, back to the Police and finally, as an independent Service in 1947 following the Prison Ordinance and regulations of 1947.
Today the Zambia Prisons Service is one of the institutions of the Criminal Justice System in the country, falling under the Ministry Of Home Affairs. The service is established under Article 106 of the constitution of Zambia and governed by Cap 97 of the laws of Zambia, hereinafter referred to as the Prisons Act.
Its core fuctions are to provide custodial services to inmates until they are lawfully discharged, to provide correctional services to inmates and to contribute to agricultural productions for the country.
N.B: This is an extract from the book “the Historic Profile of the Zambia Prisons Service” written by Late Former Commissioner of Prisons, Jethro Mumbuwa. More information was sourced from a book in ‘History of the Northern Rhodesia Prisons Service” written by Ivor Graham.