The Prison Inspectorate has released 308 inmates from various prisons across the country, in a continued effort to decongest the reformatory facilities.
Malawi Prisons Services (MPS) spokesperson, Chimwemwe Shaba, Wednesday said among the group are three children belonging to lactating mothers who were incarcerated thus bringing the number to 311.
Shaba said during their visit earlier this month, the Inspectorate noticed that congestion remains a serious problem in the country’s prisons; hence, the decision to let go of some of the inmates who had less than six months to complete their sentences.
“Noting that congestion remains a challenge, the Inspectorate of Prisons reviewed the files of inmates who had less than six months to go on their sentences and had also demonstrated good conduct during their time in prison and had actually reformed. A decision was made that the remainder of the sentences be suspended,” Shaba said.
He said the qualifying inmates have so far been released on condition that they do not commit any offence within the first 12 months of their release.
“The Prison Inspectorate has also ordered the inmates to continue with their good behaviour. There are 295 men, 16 women and three children belonging to some of the women,” Shaba said.
The release order, which we have seen, shows that the inmates are from 13 facilities, with the major ones being Mikuyu, Zomba, Mzimba and Nkhotakota.
Asked on the possible security breakdown in the country’s prisons which has seen some inmates escaping from lawful custody in various facilities, Shaba refused to comment.
He, however, said the three prisoners that escaped from Zomba Maximum Prison last November were recaptured and are answering charges.
The Inspectorate of Prisons is a commission within MPS provided for in the Prisons’ Act whose primary responsibility is to ensure that inmates and suspects in police cells are given humane treatment with adherence to minimum standards in terms of accommodation and food rations.
Justice Kenan Manda chairs the Inspectorate which is mandated to do routine checks of prisons and police cells.
The Inspectorate of Prisons was established by Section 169 of the Malawi Constitution and became operational in July 1995.
A 2018 Malawi Inspectorate of Prisons Report to Parliament indicates that, at the time of inspection, Mzuzu Prison had 836 inmates against a recommended capacity of 90 inmates representing 929 percent.
Lilongwe (Maula) Prison had 3,026 inmates against 480 representing 630 percent, Blantyre (Chichiri) Prison had 1,866 inmates against 570 representing 327 percent while Zomba Central Prison had 2,166 against a capacity of 756 representing 287 percent.
The report said, under international human rights law, conditions of overcrowding in prisons can amount to a violation of the prohibition against torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.