Opposition will also be allowed to campaign in prison – Chato

Zambia Correctional Services (ZCS) Commissioner General Percy Chato says opposition political parties will also be granted access to prison facilities in order to sell their manifesto to inmates.

Speaking in an interview with News Diggers at Lusaka Central Correctional Facility yesterday, Chato welcomed the Constitutional Court’s decision to allow inmates to vote and said that the service would work with the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) on how campaigns would be conducted in the facilities.

“We welcome the decision of the Constitutional Court because we believe as a Correctional service that even though prisoners are deprived of their liberty, they have also got some rights they are supposed to enjoy. So it’s a positive development that now they will be enjoying their rights to vote. Then in terms of the administration of how we are going to run it. So we will study that decision and then put in place adequate regulations as Correctional service to ensure that there is law and order when that time of campaign comes,” Chato said.

“Of course we will have to work with the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and all the political parties in the country on how the campaigns will be conducted in our correctional facilities because the prisons are very sensitive places and we can’t just allow anyone who presents themselves to us as politicians and have come to campaign. We will need to have the correct number of political parties in the country and then put regulations to see to it that the facilities are secured when campaigns are conducted. Otherwise I do not think any politician will be denied access to the Correctional facilities because the courts already made ruling to the effect that inmates will now be voting. So everyone will be allowed to campaign but that will be done in an orderly manner. How the voting will be conducted is yet to be established. All in all, we have welcomed the move as a service.”

And Chato expressed confidence that the relocation of Lusaka Correctional Facility to Mwembeshi Correctional facility under construction in Central Province would reduce Tuberculosis and other related infections among inmates.

“Definitely, the holding capacity of this prison (Lusaka Prison) is at least 250 but the new facility that is under construction in Mwembeshi will accommodate a population of 8800. So if we have to move this population then we won’t congest that place because we will need 500 more to reach the optimum accommodation levels. And the new facilities will also come with clinics and therefore, we will be in the best position to offer the health services on top of offering the good accommodation and a conducive environment. Indeed the issues of man power have been with us for a long time with a population of about 21000 against the staff establishment of 3300, you would find that there are these issues of challenges in the management and treatment of our inmates,” said Chato.

“But I wish to report that we have a new establishment which was approved last year in December and all we are waiting for is the treasury authority to employ the staff in order for us to reach optimal levels and as we employ, I think we will also consider those who are specialized in the provision of medical services because provision of health services to inmates is enshrined in the prisons Act of care. We do believe as a service that prison health is public health and therefore, there is this collaboration with the Ministry of Health where they provide us with medicine and you find that most of these clinics will also stock medicines for us and we get our stocks from there.”

         

Mirriam Chabala

About Mirriam Chabala

Mirriam Chabala is a Zambian journalist who covers current affairs and writes in-depth feature articles on social issues.
Email: mirriam [at] diggers [dot] news

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