Mass Incarceration is a National Shame 

Source: Mass Incarceration is a National Shame – Zealous Thierry

“An illegitimate government breeds not only discontent but also a sense of lawlessness that permeates through the very fabric of society.” This statement rings true for Zimbabwe, where the rise in crime is not merely a statistic to be analyzed but a reflection of our state of economy and governance.

The recent years have seen a notable rise in crime rates in Zimbabwe, with offenses ranging from housebreaking and robbery to theft increasing by close to 50%. This surge is not an isolated phenomenon but correlates directly with the economic turmoil that has gripped the nation. As the cost of living skyrockets and unemployment soars, desperation drives many to crime, not out of inherent malice but as a last resort to survive.

Mass incarceration has become the state’s knee-jerk response to this crisis. Prisons like Chikurubi are notorious for overcrowding and human rights abuses, yet they continue to fill up as more citizens are convicted for minor non-violent offenses. The promise of community service orders, an alternative to incarceration, remains unfulfilled due to court congestion and political instability. The result is a carceral system bursting at the seams, where the majority of inmates are non-serious offenders who, if not for their poverty, would never have seen the inside of a cell.

The imprisonment rate in Zimbabwe, which peaked at 165 prisoners per 100,000 people in 2003, reflects a punitive approach that fails to address the root causes of crime. It is a national shame that we incarcerate the impoverished rather than invest in their potential. It is a national shame that we choose to lock away problems instead of unlocking solutions.

The state of our economy is mirrored in the state of our prisons. A robust economy is characterized by low crime rates, high employment, and a sense of security among its citizens. Conversely, an economy in shambles is marked by high crime rates, mass unemployment, and a populace fraught with uncertainty and fear. Zimbabwe’s economy, plagued by hyperinflation and a lack of foreign investment, has led to a decline in public services and a rise in poverty. This economic decay is a fertile ground for crime to flourish.

The government’s approach to crime must shift from punitive to preventative. It must recognize that mass incarceration is not a solution but a symptom of a larger problem. Investment in education, job creation, and social services is imperative to address the socio-economic factors that lead to crime. The international community’s role in providing aid and supporting reforms cannot be overstated.

The rise in crime in Zimbabwe is a clear indicator of our economic and political failings. Mass incarceration is a national shame that highlights our inability to provide for our citizens and to create a just and equitable society. It is time for a paradigm shift in how we view and treat crime, for the sake of our nation’s present and future.