via Prison population balloons | The Herald November 4, 2015
Zimbabwe’s prison population has risen up to 19 020 in the country’s 46 prisons, 12 percent above the holding capacity of 17 000, a situation that is likely to exacerbate the plight of prisoners.
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services spokesperson Chief Superintended Elizabeth Banda (pictured left) told The Herald that of this figure, 16 327 were convicted prisoners, while 2 693 were suspects awaiting trial.
She said out of the 19 020 prisoners, 486 were females.
“As of October 30, the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services have 19 020 prison inmates. Out of the 19 020, 16 327 have been convicted while 2 693 are awaiting trial,” she said.
“The numbers continue to rise because this is a reflection of the prevailing economic conditions in the country. The backlog created by the festive season also led to the ballooning of the prison population because the courts remanded most people in custody,” she said.
The surging population comes after prisoners at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prision allegedly rioted over food shortages recently, after going for three years without meat.
The rise in population comes barely a year after more than 2 000 prisoners were released under a Presidential Amnesty.
Before the amnesty, there were 18 980 prisoners in the country, but President Mugabe extended a Presidential pardon on February 12 last year in terms Section 112 (1) (a) and (d) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Chief Supt Banda said remand prisons especially Harare, Hwahwa and Khami were overpopulated unlike prisons occupied by convicted prisoners.
She said that although it was the prerogative of ZPCS to provide inmates with all the necessary facilities, she was also appealing to inmates’ relatives to bring basic commodities to plug the gap created by budget con- straints.
“If we operate above our holding capacity, we face serious challenges. The demand in basic resources, especially food, rises, which puts constraints on us,” she said. The country’s 46 prisons also had 50 children as of October 31 who lived with their jailed mothers, thereby congesting already overcrowded cells.
Chief Supt Banda said the number of prison escapees had decreased compared to last year from 36 to 27.
She said since January, ZPCS had managed to recapture nine of the prison escapees.