High legal fees contributing to prison congestion – German envoy

German head of cooperation Christoph Ritz says the high cost of legal representation fees charged on inmates and detainees have contributed to overcrowding of correctional facilities in Zambia.

Speaking during the launch of legal help desks at Lusaka Central and Kamwala Correctional Facilities, Tuesday, Ritz said overcrowding in correctional facilities is a long-standing problem with overall occupancy levels higher than collective capacity.

“High cost of legal representation fees on inmates have contributed to the current situation of overcrowding in correctional facilities. In Zambia, overcrowding in correctional facilities is a long-standing problem with overall occupancy levels three times higher than collective capacity. The immediate result of such high occupancy levels is that the State is unable to meet the basic and developmental needs of those detained in these facilities,” Ritz said.

He said the justice sector in the country is characterized by limited cooperation and co-ordination between justice institutions leading to ineffectiveness and inefficiencies in the legal chain.

“Further, [the] Zambian justice sector is characterized by limited cooperation and co-ordination between justice institutions, which especially in rural areas, often leads to ineffectiveness and inefficiencies in [the] legal chain, resulting in poor service delivery,” Ritz added.

He further said that in order to addresses challenges in justice system, the European Union (EU) and Germany have been working together to establish paralegal help desks.

“I am pleased to inform you that on this close cooperation with Zambia Correctional Service, and through the paralegal help desks, a total of eight correctional facility paralegal help desks have been established. I must state that we have one in Choma, Mazabuka, Livingstone, Ndola Kamfinsa and Chingola. In Lusaka, we have Kamwala and Lusaka Central Correctional Facilities,” said Ritz.

Meanwhile, Zambia Correctional Service deputy commissioner Tobias Mwanza said 389 out of 1,341 inmates at Lusaka Correctional Service have had legal representation.

         

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