Commissioner promises conjugal rights to inmates, as he condemns death sentence

Zambia Correctional Services (ZCS) Commissioner General Chisela Chileshe has disclosed that his office is considering incorporating a law that empowers inmates with conjugal rights and access to their families away from custodial facilities.

And Dr Chileshe says he does not support the death sentence, arguing that murdering a murderer doesn’t solve the problem.

Meanwhile, Dr Chileshe says the Service is also considering the construction of holding facilities for circumstantial children to ensure that babies born from correctional facilities are not brought up in places where offenders are kept.

Speaking when he featured on Hot FM’s “Frank on Hot” programme, Tuesday, Dr Chileshe said the empowerment of inmates with conjugal rights and access to their families on a sabbatical leave would address cases of sodomy amongst inmates.

“There could be isolated cases of homosexuality in prisons. But amongst the inmates, if one is caught trying to or attempting to commit sodomy, the inmates get agitated and one may even lose his life because they don’t want to be associated with this act at all. But then there may be some cases that may not be reported, but immediately we come across such cases, punishment is given to those that may perpetrate such offences,” Dr Chileshe explained.

Asked if the Service would entertain conjugal rights for inmates, Dr Chileshe said that was the route the Service was considering in order to address homosexuality and unfaithfulness for people whose partners may have been incarcerated.

“Of course, I think that is the direction. I am a proponent of conjugal rights. It’s something that people may think and have laboured to explain. This is also about an inmate meeting the family members, colleagues and so on. In the [Prisons] Act itself, we are given authority to even give sabbatical leave for an inmate to go out and given the ability or even the right to go and visit their family members and friends and attend to their personal issues. So, if we have been given that power by the Act of giving somebody even leave as determined by the Commissioner General, what would not be good to provide the environment that you can receive your parents, your children and your friends to visit you and then encourage you? In that way, we are promoting relationships so that there is no suspecting on the part of an inmate as to guessing ‘what is happening to my wife, the children’ and so on,” Dr Chileshe added.

“So, once we have those conjugal rights given to inmates, then we are promoting reformation. We are trying to have a way of actually enhancing rehabilitation, which eventually, once we reintegrate, there will be no shocks from these guys (inmates) and even from the other side meeting the partners who could have been incarcerated for so many years. So, we try to narrow the gap and to mend the bridge that could have been dismantled. That is the way to go, I think we have moved as rightly said from prisons to correction and there are a lot of facets that involve correction, and we just have to move in that direction.”

Dr Chileshe also said children born in correctional facilities would not be kept in custody in the near future because the Service planned to start accommodating them separately from their mothers.

“In our Correctional Bill, we are trying to slot in some articles or sections that will precisely protect these children. Whether they will be called circumstantial or other names, they will be children that will be found within our formations. And what we are trying to propagate is that these children must be away from the main prison environment so that they are not concretised and they do not breathe the same air as those that could have committed offences because children learn a lot by seeing and by touching. So, their cognitive power is so big that even at four years, a child may have a black box recording something that will eventually come and explode when they’ve grown to age,” he said.

And Dr Chileshe said he does not support the death sentence because it does not solve the problems that society faces.

“But from my own view, I think I am an advocate of non-death sentences and I have reasons why I don’t support death sentences. What I would support is a life sentence. If I murder someone and tomorrow I am murdered or hanged and I am no more, that does not really solve the problem. That’s just ‘an eye for an eye’ which, Zambia being a Christian nation is something contrary to our beliefs. But that said, it does not make somebody who has killed to actually realise that they committed an offence. So, we would be killing or hanging people without taking back into society the message that there is need for people to reform and change. Hanging people will not make society to reform.”

Dr Chileshe further said the decision by the Service to relocate from Chimbokaila, Kamwala and Lusaka Central facilities was because the land the respective facilities were on had been encroached upon, not sold.

“Prison land has not been sold. But I think it’s a known fact now that we will be relocating from Kamwala. We will be moving from Chimbokaila, Lusaka Central Prisons because the land has been encroached. By law, we have certain parameters to establish correctional facilities. But if you went to Kamwala now, you will just take a stone and throw it in the prisons, that’s not a way prisons should be. So, the prison land has now been put on a PPP (Public-Private Partnership) programme; we have engaged a private partner to construct us a massive prison that is going to take in more than 1,500 inmates. So, the land at these prisons will be developed into a financial or commercial place, which for us, we’ve gained because we are now taking our inmates to an area where they will be freely looked after without much influence,” said Dr Chileshe.

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