|Collect relatives’ children from prisons — Zimondi|
|Monday, 09 July 2012 13:10|
Sunday News Reporter
ZIMBABWE Prison Service (ZPS) Commissioner Retired Major General Paradzai Zimondi has said there is no budget allocation for over 40 toddlers that are in the country’s prisons, a situation that has seen the children not being allocated food or other amenities but feed on what their mothers are given.
Rtd Maj Gen Zimondi, who spoke to Sunday News on the sidelines of the ZPS 144th Passout Parade at Ntabazinduna recently, called on relatives of inmates with babies to take home children that are two years old or older.
“ZPS has no budget allocation for children, so there is need for relatives of prisoners to take the children as soon as they turn two as our policy states that the maximum time they should be in with their mothers is two years,” Rtd Maj Gen Zimondi said.
He said because children over two years could stay independent of their mothers, relatives of the mothers must collect the children so that they could be brought up in a family environment instead of the cells.
Although the meals inmates are receiving are not nutritious for young children Rtd Maj Gen Zimondi said there was nothing they could do about the situation.
“There is nothing we can do. We understand that the children need a balanced diet but we do not have an allocation for them. We are relying on donors at the moment,” he said.
He said they had been receiving donations from churches and non- governmental organisations and they were grateful for the support.
Rtd Maj Gen Zimondi said the Social Welfare Department was another option for children in prisons. He said children who could not be taken in by family members or other relatives could be taken care of by the State.
The commissioner said as part of providing a better environment for children in prisons, they had established crèches at Chikurubi and Mlondolozi Female prisons where the toddlers interacted with the children of prison officers during the day, before they are locked up with their mothers at night.
“There is a crèche were they spend time with other children but the challenge is that they still get locked up with their mothers, which is not ideal,” he lamented.
On the issue of reproductive health care, he said the female inmates were well equipped and were being assisted by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare with the necessary information.
ZPS national public relations officer, Ms Priscilla Mthembo, said for the first time they had received a small allocation from Government but it was not enough to assist the children.
“We have been allocated some funds but they are not enough to cater for the needs of these children. We are, however, grateful for having received something,” said Ms Mthembo.
“Mothers commit crimes within the family such that their children are not wanted by anyone and they end up being stuck in prison. Some are however taken to children’s homes where they are occasionally brought to the prison to visit their mothers,” she said.
However, she encouraged families to take the children since staying in prison had adverse psychological effects on the child.
She also called on the private sector to assist in the establishment of crèche at Shurugwi Female Prison.
The Deputy Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Mr Obert Gutu, made a call recently to the corporate world to chip in and assist ZPS as it was overstretched in terms of resources.
Mr Gutu said prisoners should not be regarded as bandits but instead they needed respect as they are undergoing rehabilitation and reformation as they serve time.
Zimbabwe’s prisons have been dogged by a number of challenges due to inadequate funding and lack of resources.
Prisoners have been staring in the face of starvation, shortage of clothing and medication.
Child specialists say growing up in a prison environment is not good for children as they experience trauma and that it is an infringement on their basic human rights.
They say experiencing trauma in childhood can have a severe and long-lasting effect. When childhood trauma is not resolved, this fundamental sense of fear and helplessness carries over into adulthood, setting the stage for further trauma.
Psychologists say all people seem to depend on varying amounts and intensities of social interaction to keep them happy, stable, and sane. Human beings are naturally curious and a prison is no good to children.