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Government ignores Prisons Inspectorate report

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THE reports that the Malawi Inspectorate of Prisons produces are fast turning into another resource-wasting effort as government is either failing to table the reports in Parliament or implement the inspectorate’s recommendations as legally expected.

Established in 1995 under Section 169 of Malawi Prisons Service Act, the Inspectorate conducts investigations on conditions in prisons to ensure that facilities and services in the reformation centres are in line with internationally accepted human rights standards.

The Act says the Inspectorate of Prisons shall cause to be laid before the National Assembly such reports as the Inspectorate of Prisons may make and such reports shall be so laid through the Minister responsible for prisons in the form of a motion for acceptance of the recommendations of the Inspectorate.

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But the sixth report to Parliament titled ‘Prisoners’ Health and Staff Welfare’, which was submitted to the then minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Jappie Mhango in July last year, has not been acted upon and it is nowhere to be seen within the ministry.

Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (Chreaa) Executive Director, Victor Mhango, has described failure to implement the recommendations as worrisome.

“We are not happy with the way they are treating that report. It was supposed to be tabled in Parliament but it seems there is lack of political will. I understand the Inspectorate submitted the report to the relevant ministry. It, actually, is not sending the right signals to the general public as well as international community, regarding the human rights of prisoners,” Mhango said.

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Co-chairperson for the Defence, Security and International Relations cluster of Parliament,  Alex Major, said they have been discussing that all relevant reports need to  be discussed in Parliament but progress has been slow.

“When the report is brought to Parliament, the Executive arm is supposed to report on implementation and follow-up is not a problem. But if the reports are not discussed in Parliament, it is very hard for us to follow,” Major said.

Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Grace Chiumia, said her consultations with the Prisons Department in the ministry indicate that the Inspectorate is yet to submit the report.

“The report is there but they haven’t submitted it to us. Immediately they bring it, I will take it to Parliament,” Chiumia said.

She, however, said the government is trying to decongest prisons and, so far, of food shortage has been addressed. Inspectorate Chairperson, High Court Judge Ken Manda, is yet to respond to the questionnaire that we sent but noted in the 2016 report that reports submitted to Parliament are not tabled for deliberation, defeating the oversight function of Parliament on prison good governance.

The findings of the latest report reveal recurrent general problems including poor sanitation, poor diet, overcrowding, abuse of prisoners, poor ventilation, breach of the 48-hour rule, low staffing levels, corruption among officers, inadequate uniforms, rehabilitation, and presidential pardons and amnesty.

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