Mashudu Mambo, Sunday News Reporter
THE country’s prisons and correctional institutions are struggling to provide essential services to inmates amid revelations that they have 19 000 prisoners against a holding capacity of 17 000 with 99 on death row, it has been learnt.
The problem of overpopulation in prisons brings with it a number of challenges associated with provision of health services, while food, uniforms, blankets and other requisite services remains critical.
Speaking on the sidelines of a graduation ceremony on Friday, Deputy Commissioner-General Administration, Health and Logistics Dr Alford Mashongo Dube said the prison population was exceeding the holding capacity by
2 000 which was further putting a strain on the little resources available to support the institutions.
“The national holding capacity for our prisons is 17 000, but we are overcrowded to an extent that the present prison population is about 19 000, that is above the holding capacity of all our prisons in the country. The excess 2 000 is a cause for concern. More people are coming in, but the prisons are not expanding and as you know with regard to this it means a lot of health problems are coming in,” he said.
Dr Dube said the increase in the number of inmates had led to the upsurge of diseases and shortage of prison garb and blankets for the inmates.
“Due to this overpopulation, we have experienced some shortages in uniforms and blankets, a situation that makes our prisons look uncomfortable.
This has also increased the spread of diseases like tuberculosis in the prisons. There are also 99 inmates on death row currently. The overpopulation in prisons has been caused by the increase in the number of murder, unlawful entry, stock theft and rape cases while some are of illegal immigrants waiting to be deported,” he said.
On Command Agriculture Dr Dube said the initiative played an important role in ensuring food security in the country’s prisons.
“As you know ZPCS was given a lot of farms, actually we have 24 farms so far. This past season 2016-2017 we joined Command Agriculture and I should say about 70 percent of what we were doing was under Command Agriculture though part of the other percentage was for ourselves. This agricultural season we are also getting some inputs in different provinces where our farms are located and this particularly goes to provinces in Matabeleland North particularly at Anju Prison Farm where they are getting some inputs from the Command Agriculture,” he said.
Dr Dube said they were appealing for some agricultural inputs from the ministry to help them in their agricultural activities so that they could improve the yield.
“We are appealing to the Government to give us a lot of inputs as well as mechanise some of our prison farms with tractors, combine harvesters, planters and centre pivots so that we get maximum land use and better yields,” he said.
Dr Dube said there was a need for the Government to include them in other Command Agriculture initiatives such as Command Livestock to help inmates have a proper diet.
“With regards to maize production we don’t have any challenges. Our inmates are safe, so we were thinking of going into Command Livestock to ensure we become self-sufficient and have a ready balanced diet in our institutions for our inmates,” said Dr Dube.
The deputy Commissioner General urged members of the public to visit their relatives in prison on Christmas.