Prison population shoots up

Nyemudzai Kakore Herald Reporter
Zimbabwe’s prison population has risen significantly, barely a year after more than 2 000 prisoners were released under a Presidential Amnesty. The population has shot to 18 857 in the country’s 46 prisons, 12 percent above the holding capacity of 17 000. Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services spokesperson Chief Superintended Elizabeth Banda told The Herald that of this figure, 15 633 were convicted prisoners while 3 224 were suspects awaiting trial.

She said out of the 18 857 prisoners, 18 466 were men while 619 were females.

“As of 9 January, the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services have 18 857 prison inmates. Out of the 18 857, 15 633 have been convicted while 3 224 are awaiting trial,” she said.

“The numbers continue to rise because this is a reflection of the economic conditions prevailing in the country. Gruesome crimes such as murder are committed during the process of committing other crimes like theft and robbery,” she said.

The country’s 46 prisons also had 36 children as of January 16 who lived with their jailed mothers, thereby congesting already packed cells.

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 crimes topping the list were murder and robbery.

“As the ZPCS, we have 484 prisoners convicted of murder, 386 robbery, 383 unlawful entry, 379 assault, 266 fraud, culpable homicide 353 and 264 dangerous drugs, attempted murder 194, domestic violence 155, indecent assault 136 to mention a few,” she said.

Chief Supt Banda said they were facing serious challenges in terms of transporting prisoners to attend trial due to inadequate fuel supplies.

“Our challenge is transporting prisoners to attend trial in time or routine remand hearing due to limited fuel allocations. As you know, inmates have a constitutional right to be heard within a reasonable time,” she said.