Prison chief laments congestion challenges
By Isaac Salima:
Chief Commissioner for prisons at the Malawi Prison Services (MPS) Wandika Phiri has admitted that overcrowding remains a big challenge affecting smooth operations of prisons in the country. Phiri made the remarks during senior prison officers’ ball in Blantyre.
Her sentiments follow a report released by Malawi Inspectorate of Prisons in September last year which indicated that there is great violation of human rights in the country’s prisons.
Phiri said that the problem is heavily impacting on their efforts of rehabilitating inmates.
“We are supposed to strive to maintain the most minimum standards in preserving the rights and dignity of those under our custody but the challenges are issues like overcrowding. However, we are working with other stakeholders like the judiciary that have been trying to help us by reviewing some of the sentences just to ensure that we are decongesting the prisons,” Phiri said.
She also said that they would like to focus more on finding alternative custodial or non-custodial measures in their efforts of transforming the country’s prisons into correctional centres.
The inspectorate report also indicates that the country’s prisons are not fit for human occupancy as the current status of prisoners population is bad and the structures are dilapidated which is posing a serious danger to inmates.
Commenting on the issue Executive Director for Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance Victor Mhango said that MPS alone cannot address the problem of overpopulation in prisons.
“Prisons only receive inmates who have been sentenced. Not all offenders deserve jail sentence and if we are to deal with the problem of congestion, we have to find alternative ways of punishing some offenders who have committed not serious offences than taking them to prison,” Mhango said.
During the event, outstanding prisons and staff were awarded. Chitipa was chosen prison of the year with Kasungu prison emerging prison farm of the year while women purpose of the year award went to Ntchisi prison women.
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