Home » Legal and Judicial Affairs » Spare a Thought for the Prison Warden [analysis]

The meat had barely turned crispy brown on the fire when a five-man gang, bearing all manner of scars and missing teeth, alighted from a battered jalopy and reached for one gentleman’s hand and dragged him by that limb into a nearby supermarket.Once inside, they bought a 2-litre bottle of cooking oil and buns and ordered him to enjoy himself under their watch.

“Rovai mambo mafuta aya nezvibhanzi izvo mudzidze kuti nyika ndeyemunhu wese. You were too rough during our time in jail,” they said after making sure the bloke was halfway through the unsavoury meal.

Everyone could see that what was being done was illegal and unjustified, but no one had the guts to confront the gang.

So fierce were the assailants that people, including yours truly, left the targeted fellow to stew in his juice rather than bear the brunt of being stabbed.

Only after the gang had left did we discover that the guy who had been made to down cooking oil and buns was a prison officer, while his attackers were former inmates.

I am made to believe that what I witnessed in Mbare is not the worst.

Prison officers – popularly known as “Gadhijere”, “Mambo”, “Ishe”, “Changamire” and “rehabilitation officer” in the communities in which we live – go through hell in an average day’s work.

Besides open attacks and insults, they also have to contend with throwing away muti.

People whose relatives commit crimes spend a fortune on herbal concoctions and charms to get them released from prison without trial or to make all records disappear, hence the scores of charms these men and women have to throw away daily.

Some prisoners use muti on these officers to ensure they have it easy while they are guests of the State.

Their green uniforms instil fear in inmates and anger in people whose relatives live under their able care at courts and behind prison walls.

“Hama dzangu munovenga basa rangu, randinodaNdinorishanda seiko imi musingarideKo ndikazova rovha? Pamba penyu mungandide here imi?” sang the legendary Leonard Dembo in this song which highlights how certain people, prison guards included, soldier on doing jobs most people do not appreciate.

A prison officer has responsibility for the security, supervision, training and rehabilitation of people committed to prison by the courts.

This includes motivating prisoners to do what is best for themselves and others around them within a safe and healthy environment.

In addition to their custodial duties, prison officers must be able to establish and maintain positive working relationships with prisoners, balancing authority with a large amount of understanding and compassion, in order to effect rehabilitation.

The nature of the role demands the ability to think on your feet, make quick decisions and deal effectively with unexpected situations.

Some aspects of the work vary according to the type of prison and level of security, e.g. category A prisoners require closer supervision than category C.

However, typical work activities include: performing security checks and search procedures supervising prisoners, keeping an account of those in your charge and maintaining proper order supervising visits and carrying out patrol duties escorting prisoners assisting in prisoner reviews aising and counselling prisoners and making sure they have access to professional help if needed employing authorised physical control and restraint procedures where appropriate taking care of prisoners’ property being aware of prisoners’ rights and dignity and their personal responsibilityproviding appropriate care and support for vulnerable prisoners and those at risk of self-harm promoting anti-bullying and suicide prevention policies taking an active part in rehabilitation programmes, including workshops assessing and aising prisoners liaising with other specialist staff, including health and social work professionals and writing reports.

Higher grade prison officers have extra responsibilities, such as supervising other officers or looking after an area or wing of the prison.

But it is the perception people have of prison officers that makes some in society be resentful.

Seeking love is a major challenge for prison officers because people generally view them as rough and poor communicators.

“Manje wanga washaya mumwe murume angakuroore here pane mugadhijere? Varume ivavo vane rough zvekuti unonzwa nekurohwa, muroverwo unoita mabhanditi. Dai uine nguva wati mire tazombokutsvakira vamwe vane mwoyo usina kuomarara,” I heard a young lady being cautioned by her sisters even though they were also tucking into a pizza bought by the same prison officer they derided.

The same applies to female prison officers.

“Manje mbuya idzodzo dzine-rough inobhururutsa ndege. She is a good lady with a shapely figure I agree, but the kind of job she does makes it difficult for you to fall in love with her.

“These are the kind of women who when you tell them that it is all over they will come with a gun to kill you. Akazomboti mukadzi anobata pfuti anokiswa ndiani munin’ina?” I heard one old man counsel his drinking partners in a bar in Glen View last weekend.

Cases that sometimes get published in newspapers do not serve prison officers right.

A recent article in which a prison officer reportedly connived with a prisoner to dupe his wife of cash made the public view prison officers as fraudsters.

The moment someone comes to buy a car from you and you discover he is a prison officer, half the time you are inclined to deny entering the transaction with him fearing the deal may be reversed because ill-gotten money may be used.

Some prison officers reportedly illegally release prisoners from jail, making people always suspicious of them.

Securing accommodation is not easy for prison officers.

Landlords barely want to stay with men of authority at their homes because they always do not find it easy to raise their rent as and when they feel like.

A number of prison officers have for a long time been accused of falling in love with the wives of prisoners under their watch.

As I commit pen to paper gentle reader, most prisoners do not want their spouses to visit them behind bars for fear that they will end up stewing the relish of these green-uniformed civil servants.

But it’s not a one-size-fits-all affair.

Some prison officers are God-fearing but people always have an axe to grind against them.

Despite the good they seek to achieve, prison officers lead a dog’s life, but someone has got to live it.

Inotambika mughetto.

Source : The Herald