Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo says government will soon start paying inmates a given monthly allowance to enable them save money for settling down when they are released from prison.
And Justice Minster Given Lubinda says remand detainees are the worst in the transformation process of inmates in correctional facilities as compared to convicts because they are detained without being tried.
This came to light when the two ministers visited correctional facilities in Lusaka district as they concluded their countrywide tour of prisons.
Speaking when he met inmates at Lusaka Central Correctional facility, Kampyongo disclosed that government would start paying prisoners as a way of empowering them for the hard work they do.
“The law provides for the payment of any citizen who renders a service to the country. And with the revision of the law, prisoners will now start getting an allowance for all the work they do while in incarceration so that they can have somewhere to start from when they are released. Because currently the money they are getting is a k1 in the old currency which means when re based to the new currency that money only amounts to a 1 ngwee which is as good as nothing,” said Kampyongo.
The minister also said convict in Lusaka Central Prison would be relocated to Mwembeshi to leave room for remand detainees.
“Lusaka prisoners will soon be relocated to Mwembeshi Correctional Facility so that we can have a lot of space to accommodate everyone because currently we have situations where remandees and convicts are being kept in the same facilities which is not supposed to be the case. The Correctional Facility in Kamwala initially was supposed to be accommodating remand inmates but because of the problems of overcrowding, we have all sorts of people in that facility including juveniles. But this will soon be a thing of the past because we as government have taken it upon ourselves to deal with the challenges of overcrowding physically,” said Kampyongo.
And Justice Minister Given Lubinda said remand inmates were the most dangerous people in Correctional facilities because they were being kept there without determining the fate of their cases.
“We have come here because we have our people incarcerated in here. We are not happy with the way you are being kept and we have been working around improving your conditions. But I must also say that it is not safe for convicts and remand detainees to be kept in the same place because remandees have not been tried and they have not even started the process of reformation and they might be a danger in prison and they are actually the worst in these facilities,” said Lubinda
Lubinda also expressed happiness that the Act to repeal the Prisoners Act to replace it with the Correctional Act had been presented to his Ministry.
The prisoners were also given time to express their concerns and complaints to the two Minsters through a representative Thomas Kalambatila, a former teacher facing a life sentence.
“We are very happy to receive you honourable Ministers, it is a rare opportunity for us that you would take time off your busy schedule to come and be with us. We as prisoners have been facing a lot of challenges honourable Ministers in terms of delays in the court cases. Sometimes the authorities take a very long time to commit us to courts to be tried and even when they do, some prisoners do not even have proper representation because they neither have lawyers nor relatives. Then the issue of keeping juveniles here with order people is not good for the young children especially that most of them have not even been taken to court so it can be very bad for their growing up,” he said.
Kalambatila also appealed to government to empower prisoners with money and if possible open an account for them so that well wishers could be depositing their contributions.
“We are also appealing to government through you to help us by empowering us especially women prisoners with some money so that when we are released we can go home with something, if possible, you can open up an account in the name of the Correctional Facility so that well wishers can also be contributing something. And her Honour the Vice President can also empower the women through government’s ‘women empowerment scheme’,” said Kalambatila.
Meanwhile, Head of Cooperation for the European Union Gianluca Azzoni said the visit by two ministers to correctional facilities in the country would help in increasing awareness of the challenges affecting inmates.
“We are anticipating that the visits by the honourable ministers to the correctional facilities would help with the identification of potential remedies to the problems that currently affect the provision of quality correctional services to the inmates,” said Azzoni.
The countrywide tour of correctional facilities in the country was undertaken with support from the European Union and the federal Republic of Germany under the programme for Legal Empowerment and Enhanced Justice Delivery (PLEED), implemented through the Germany Development Cooperation.
The two Ministers were accompanied by Correctional Facilities Commissioner General Percy Chato, officials from the Judiciary, the delegation from the European Union and Lusaka Correctional Facility officer in Charge Superintendent Misheck Sakala.