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Government to amend Prison Bill

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Ralph Jooma

The government is expected to table a Correction Service Bill to replace the current Prison Bill in the current meeting of Parliament, The Daily Times has learned.

If passed, correctional facilities’ focus will change from punishing to reforming so that inmates can become productive once out of prison cells.

Homeland Security Minister Richard Chimwendo Banda said the bill would enable prison facilities in the country to be imparting knowledge and skills in inmates so that they can contribute fully to national development efforts.

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“The main aim is to correct the behaviour and character of somebody who has been convicted by a court of law.

“This is going to help because, at the end of the day, we will be monitoring how these prisoners are changing, sharpening their skills through capacity-building initiatives and, then, releasing them even before the end of their custodial sentence,” he said.

The minister disclosed this in Parliament on Tuesday when legislator for Mangochi Monkey Bay Ralph Jooma demanded to know what the ministry was doing to decongest prisons in the country.

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He said the country’s prison facilities were congested.

Jooma, who is also Defence and Security Committee of Parliament Chairperson, said, according to human rights regulations, each inmate is supposed to have a space of two square metres within the prison, but that this was not possible in the current setting.

“The moment you squeeze them into one place, you are violating human rights and that is not fair,” he said.

He cited Maula Prison, which was meant to keep 800 inmates but now houses over 3,000 prisoners; Zomba Prison, which was designed to accommodate 800 people but now offers shelter to 2,900; Mzuzu Prison, with a designed capacity of 700 but now forced to hold 2,700 within its cells;, and Nkhotakota, which was designed to keep 150 inmates but now keeps over 600 people.

However, Chimwendo Banda indicated that a total of 6,727 prisoners had been pardoned in the last two years as one way of decongesting prisons.

Justice Minister Titus Mvalo weighed in on the matter, saying, apart from meting out custodial sentences on convicts, courts in the country have other options including ordering a convict to pay a fine.

He further told Parliament that the courts could also just give a caution without jailing the convict.

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