Home » Governance » ’Find Alternatives to Reduce Overcrowding in Prisons’

Government must find ways to reduce overcrowding in the country’s prisons, including imposing non-custodial sentences on convicts, Parliament heard on Thursday.

National Assembly member for Zengeza East, Mr Alexio Musundire (MDC-T), said while moving a motion on the living conditions in prisons, that courts should promote the imposition of fines, community service, house arrests, probation and restorative justice system.

“This programme is working well in countries such as South Africa,” he said.

“It is a system where an offender and other people in the community help find a negotiated solution. So it is actually a preference to our country’s prison system.”

During a tour of prisons in Harare by Parliament’s thematic Committee on Human Rights this week, Officer-in-Charge at the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, Assistant Commissioner Ernest Pambayi said Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison was overcrowded, with more than 2 302 inmates against a holding capacity of 1 364.

The Deputy Officer-in-Charge of Harare Central Prison, Superintendent Stanford Chingozho, said there was also overcrowding at the correctional facility as it had a holding capacity of 1 470 inmates but was holding 1 990 prisoners.

Contributing to Mr Musundire’s motion, Harare West representative Ms Jessie Majome (MDC-T), suggested community service as an alternative.

“My portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs noted that in the budgetary allocation, the Department of Justice under the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was not given any funding at all,” said Ms Majome.

She said in terms of the country’s law on sentencing, if a magistrate considered sentencing an offender for less than two years of effective imprisonment for first offenders, they were required to give community service as a sentence.

Ms Majome said there should not be cases of starvation in prisons as the ZPCS had been allocated 26 farms under the land reform programme.

“Those prisons, 20 years ago, had some of the biggest and fattest herd of cattle,” she said.

“One should ask why our prisoners are suffering from malnutrition when just about 20 years ago the country had an enviable beef and dairy herd.”

In March this year, inmates at Chikurubi Prison attempted to escape in the protests attributed to ‘a poor diet’.

While the ZPSC acknowledged the need to improve diet in prisons, the organisation indicated that the attempted jail break was motivated by other factors, including politics.

Source : The Herald