Victor Maphosa Herald Correspondent
The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) has appealed to the Government to speed up the release of pardoned inmates to decongest facilities and reduce the spread of coronavirus in case of an outbreak.
An estimated 6 000 prisoners serving for non-violent crimes are expected to be released through an amnesty that cuts the length of their sentences to de-congest prisons.
Cabinet heard and approved the proposal by Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi recently.
In a statement yesterday, ZPCS national public relations officer Superintendent Khanyezi Meya said communicable diseases like Covid-19 can spread easily in confined places and de-congesting prisons was paramount.
“It is ideal that our organisation take preventive measures to curb the transmission and to begin with, it is desirable that an amnesty to free some offenders be implemented to ease pressure on the prison population which is above holding capacity,” she said.
“Prisons are confined institutions. Communicable diseases such as Covid-19, among others have greater chances of spreading in these places and could pose serious health and logistical challenges, should cases of the virus get recorded.”
Supt Meya said a number of prison officers countrywide have recently undergone training to equip them with knowledge and skills on how to prevent and handle themselves and inmates in case of a Covid-19 outbreak.
“Some of our correctional officers have recently undergone training on the pandemic and are expected to train other officers throughout the country, with information cascading to inmates,” she said.
“This move is essential in that officers in particular, are in constant contact with offenders such that their interaction should place more emphasis on prevention.
“Inmates rely on officers among other partners for information. It is essential that they get relevant information on the pandemic so that they are aware of developments outside, that have a bearing on them.”
Supt Meya stressed the importance of hygienic practices saying prisons should be provided with basics such as sanitisers to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.
“Issues of hygiene are of importance with regard to mitigating the spread of the virus. Ideally, prison settings should be provided with basics such as soaps, sanitisers and detergents and above all sufficient water,” she said.
“It is also vital to minimise visits to prisons in light of further developments around Covid-19 particularly at a time when gatherings are discouraged until the situation normalises.”