President Edgar Lungu has exercised his prerogative of mercy on 961 inmates from various correctional facilities across the country to commemorate this year’s Christmas Day.

Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo announced at a press briefing in Lusaka, Tuesday, where he also disclosed that the pardoning of the 961 by the President would result in 930 inmates being released back into society and consequently reduce congestion in correctional facilities by at least four per cent.

“Those pardoned consist of 903 short term inmates, serving prison terms ranging from six months to five years, including the aged inmates. The aged inmates are those aged 65 years and above; 18 persons detained at the pleasure of his Excellency and 40 inmates whose capital and long term sentences have been commuted. The 40 inmates whose capital and long term sentences have been commuted by his Excellency the President fall in various categories. In that regard, eight inmates have been pardoned, one inmate granted unconditional pardon and three inmates have had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. The other 28 inmates have had their long term sentences reduced from between 25 and 15 years to between 25 and 10 years. With regards to the gender of the inmates who have benefited from the President’s exercise of his prerogative of mercy, 857 are men while 102 are women,” Kampyongo announced.

“While the proposition of those living in correctional centres appears more in comparison with the prison population which currently stands at 22,823, the action will help easy the lives of inmates. The Ministry of Home Affairs, staff of the correctional service and indeed inmates throughout the country are grateful to his Excellency the President for exercising his prerogative of mercy at a time when all the correctional centres are extremely congested due to an increase in the prison population against the limited holding capacity of these facilities.”

Meanwhile, the minister appealed to members of the communities where the pardoned inmates would be returning to give the former inmates the required support during their re-entry period into society.

“We would like also to take this opportunity to appeal to members of the public, communities, families and households to which the former inmates are returning to support them by not discriminating against them. The former inmates have been rehabilitated and they are ready for re-entry into society as productive, responsible and law abiding citizens. We must remember that successful reintegration of any former inmate is dependent on the support that families, communities and society at large render to them. We must all give the pardoned former inmates a second chance and help them find their feet as law abiding citizens,” said Kampyongo.