Prison Services admit violating prisoners’ rights

The rights of prisoners are grossly violated by government due to tough economic conditions and provisions of the past constitution, Deputy Prisons Services Commissioner General, Agrey Huggins Machingauta, told Parliament today.

 Agrey Huggins Machingauta
Agrey Huggins Machingauta

Giving oral evidence to the Thematic Committee for Human Rights in Harare, Machingauta said inmates lived under appalling conditions resulting in violation of their rights.

He said there was an acute shortage of clothing and bedding facilities, and inadequate food, water and shelter at the country’s 46 prisons and satellite holding centres.

“For example, Chikurubi Maximum Prison has been without running water for the past 10 years. Prisons across the country fail to provide inmates with right quantities and quality of food due to limited allocation of funds by treasury,” Machingauta said, noting that the inmate entitlement to two pairs of uniform, four blankets, a sleeping mat, protective clothing among others, remained a pipe-dream.

Machingauta noted that the failure by Prisons to transport inmates on remand to court due to shortage of transport and fuel, deprived suspects their right to timeous justice.

He attributed the injustice to the depleted Prisons’ vehicle fleet and erratic fuel supplies.

Supply of drugs for treatment of HIV related illnesses, Machingauta said, were stable but those for other diseases were in short supply with stocks at 55 percent, instead of the normal 88 percent.

According to Machingauta, prevalence of HIV/AIDS was very high among inmates.

Overcrowding at the country’s prisons was described as a violation of inmates’ rights.

Zimbabwe Prisons have a holding capacity of 17, 000 inmates but at present some 17, 380 people are inside prison walls.

Among the inmates 14662 are convicts, 324 female, 80 juveniles and 29 are babies.

The remainder awaits trial.

Machingauta noted that provisions of the old constitution provided for punishment not rehabilitation of the offender, a practice he said was in violation of inmates’ rights.

“The new constitution compels the Prison Services to focus on correctional service for inmates not the penal arrangement we had in the past,” said Machingauta.

Machingauta urged society to assist government rehabilitate inmates for them to live dignified lives and smoothly reintegrate into communities after completing sentences.

He said convicts do not lose dignity and right to equality before the law, despite having lost the right to liberty.

The Prison Services is mandated to protect society from criminal elements through incarceration of offenders, that they be rehabilitated before being returned to society.

Thematic Committee chairperson, Senator and Retired Army General, Mike Nyambuya, called on society to contribute towards improvement of the welfare of inmates.

“There is need for us as a nation to evaluate how much we have invested in correctional services,” Nyambuya said.

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