BY OBERT SIAMILANDU
THE Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) wants the country’s courts to consider imposing fines for minor crimes, instead of imprisonment in order to decongest the country’s overpopulated correctional centres.
This was revealed last Friday by ZPCS Commissioner-General Moses Chihobvu during his address at Kariba Prison where he noted that there was no more space to take in more prisoners.
The ZPCS boss is currently on a nationwide tour of prisons in order to get an appreciation of the challenges faced at the correctional centres.
“The carrying capacity of prisons is 17 000 but as of today, we have more than 20 000 inmates so we are over-populated.
“We recommend for an amnesty of which I think the government is going to consider the release of some of the prisoners in order to alleviate the challenges of overcrowding. We are saying the courts should make sure that those who committed minor offences are allowed to pay fines.
Chihobvu said other challenges faced by the ZPCS included lack of transport.
“The transport challenges have been there for quite a long time now. We have submitted requirements to the government and made our recommendations. At the same time we get vehicles which are not enough, and the last batch of vehicles were bought around last year. There were only three vehicles for court duties.
“Imagine getting three vehicles. How do you even distribute them if you were the commissioner-general? We then considered the hard-hit prisons like Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison and remand prisons and the vehicles were deployed there. We are still in negotiations with government to consider us for more operational vehicles, especially court vehicles,” Chihobvu said.
He said prison breaks could happen and could not be avoided, adding that prison officers needed to be well-trained to deal with escapees.
“We have prison officers who will be escorting these inmates, they should be well-trained, and of which I believe and I am happy that they are trained,” he said.