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10 years on, Prison Bill still stuck in government shelves

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Ten years after it was drafted, the Prisons Bill remains stuck in government shelves instead of being brought to Parliament.

The development is worrying human rights organisations who say lack of progress on the bill is negatively affecting welfare of inmates.

The organisations – Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (Chreaa), Legal Aid Bureau and Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) – raised the concern in Blantyre on Monday.

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Executive Director for Chreaa Victor Mhango wondered why Parliament has been neglecting the welfare of people in prisons.

‘‘The Act came into place during the colonial era. It has some clauses that promote corporal punishments which are in conflict with the constitution. We need to update it to include and incorporate what the constitution of Malawi and the international standards are saying,’’ he said.

The current Prison Act was enacted in 1956.

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He added that the draft bill has some considerations including the provision for parole which he said could help in decongesting prisons.

Regional human rights coordinator for MHRC Victor Khwima said in the current state, the dignity of the prisoners is at stake.

He and Sigele Chirwa of the Legal Aid Bureau also called upon duty bearers to consider acting on the bill to improve the condition of Malawi’s prisons.

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