ZAMBIA Correctional Service Commissioner General Fredrick Chilukutu has described the conditions of inmates in correctional facilities as dehumanising, saying congestion is a matter of urgent concern which needs to be addressed.

Speaking when he paid a courtesy call on the Southern Province administration, Saturday, Chilukutu said the population of inmates in the province was way over what was considered normal.

“We are here to announce our presence and seek your blessings that we go round your province. As you are aware that I had been retired out of the service in the last six years and I have lost touch with quite a number of things also that had switched off. But I am here now and duty has called upon us. We felt that we embark on a tour to appreciate what is out in the Provinces as it relates to our institution. So that we may be able to make better decisions to better the lives and conditions of our people in the correctional facilities,” he said.

“As we come here, I wanted to announce that the population of the inmates in the country is excessive. We have today somewhere 23,297 inmates across the country. And here in your province, there are 2,357 [inmates]. Statistically, that population is way over what is normal in accordance with the facilities that you have in your province. It is giving us 249% excess in terms of congestion. And I think that is a matter of serious concern on our part as we embark on this tour. We inspected the Livingstone facilities and nothing is pleasing when you see how our people are lodged there.”

Chilukutu expressed concern that developers were encroaching on land belonging to correctional facilities.

“We have come so that maybe we can find a solution and see what is causing and what is common in all this. We have moved from a prison system to now a correctional service. I think when you talk about congestion, surely it should speak to us that our conditions are dehumanising and we just need to do something about it. Obviously, what would be immediate is that how do we decongest the facilities? Here in the province, we have observed that most of the institutions have been encroached by developers in terms of housing. I think we are extremely encroached,” he said.

And Chilukutu said local authorities needed to consider securing land for correctional facilities out of the CBDs.

“The law requires that where there is a correctional facility, there must be 100 meters, then other developments around. But now we are observing that there is no distance at all. There is a correctional facility, and next to it is a home of ordinary citizens. I think that speaks volumes on security. The best way for us to move forward would be to ask authorities out here to help us secure significant land out of the CBDs,” said Chilukutu.

“We are also saying that we need to open many open air facilities so that we can maybe pull these populations that are accumulating in these facilities into these open air facilities. Open air is a concept where we take out inmates from the conventional centers where they would leave in a freer environment. But above all, these will be production centers.”

Meanwhile, Southern Province Minister Cornelius Mweetwa pledged government’s commitment to ensuring speedy dispensation of justice.

“You have raised the issue of congestion. I would like to pledge the allegiance of the Southern Province administration to work closely with your office to secure the land that was given by Chief Nyawa and quickly move into a situation where probably title can be given in order to give security of tenure and avoid this challenge of encroachment. In this Province, we will be moving to try to ensure that the perimeters of correctional facilities are respected by the communities around. It is actually a danger to themselves because there could be times of insecurity,” said Mweetwa.

“As provincial administration, we are also aware of the infrastructure challenges you are faced with, particularly with the female wing that remains incomplete at the Livingstone facility. We would like to pledge that we will be rendering our support to ensure that wing is completed in time. I would also like to pledge government’s commitment to ensure speedy dispensation of justice. We are aware that a number of cases take a minimum of four years, if it is two years, if you are lucky and acquitted. This should not be the case. We will be working to ensure that this issue is addressed.”