THE Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) has disclosed that the current inmate population is 25,372 against a holding capacity of 10,650.

Speaking during the opening of the criminal session at the Lusaka High Court yesterday, ZCS Commissioner General Frederick Chilukutu said of the total population, 5,101 were remandees awaiting judgement, others with bailable offences, while some were pending trial and criminal investigations.

He appealed to the judiciary to address cases pending judgements as well as remandees with bailable offences.

“May I mention that as of this morning (Monday), the prison population is standing at 25,372, that is the inmates against the prison and correctional holding capacity of 10,650. Out of that population, 5,101 are remandees among them pending judgement by the courts of law, those with bailable offences, prohibited immigrants and those pending trial and criminal investigations by arresting agencies. This category translates to 20 per cent of the total prison population which is critically contributing to overcrowding in the prison and correctional centers. I would like to appeal to the judiciary to which I have heard the response already, to address cases pending judgement and remandees with bailable offences who are standing at around 1,500. This will help the congestion,” he said.

Chilukutu said the Service was manufacturing 4,000 bunk beds that would create over 9,000 bedspaces for inmates.

“The service is also investing in electronic inmate monitoring mechanisms for inmates on parole. This system will enhance parole supervision that will minimise parole violation of parole conditions, subsequently leading to enhanced community safety. The correctional system is highly indebted to the unwavering support the government has rendered to the service in improving the general welfare of both the staff and inmates. In this vein, government recently procured 25,000 mattresses. It was very common to find prisoners sleeping on the floor. [Also] 50,000 blankets and the service is manufacturing 4,000 bunk beds that will create over 9,000 bedspaces that will ensure that human dignity of our inmates is enhanced,” he said.

Chilukutu said the Service had between 2022 and 2023 transferred 57 foreign convicted nationals to serve the remainder of their sentences in their countries of origin.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security through the Zambia Correctional Service has further prioritised the implementation of the transfer of Convicted Persons Act of 1998 through entering into bilateral agreements on the transfer of convicted foreign nationals to various countries. These agreements allow foreign convicted nationals to serve the remainder of their sentences in their countries of origin. And to this effect, I am glad to mention that between the years 2022 and 2023, the service has facilitated the transfer of 57 foreign convicted nationals to serve the remainder of their sentences in their countries of origin. I must mention that the service has been faced with erratic provision of judgement copies which are a basic requirement of the transfer, we believe that this system can be improved,” he said.

Meanwhile, Session Judge Charles Kafunda said the many challenges the judiciary was facing should not deter it from providing decent services to the citizens.

“It is no secret that our judicial system faces various challenges which run from limited resources, infrastructure challenges and lack of adjudicative and support staff. However, this should not deter us from providing decent services to our people. Imagine a scenario where the court makes an order only to find that the correctional facility lacks the requisite resources to carry out the order? Such a disconnect creates inefficiency in our justice system. Justice delayed is justice denied and this adage is true in the context of a disjointed system. I firmly believe that these challenges cannot be addressed by any one institution alone and therefore demand improved collaboration where the judiciary and the Zambia Correctional Services play their distinct but complementary roles,” he said.

Justice Kafunda added that over the years, the judicial system had improved in terms of the time it took for accused persons to appear in court.

“I am happy to state that over the years, the judicial system has improved on the intake of remandees to undergo trial. If you recall, some many years back when I was a young man in this building and still had toner in my beards, I remember that it used to take anywhere between three to six years from the time a person was charged with capital offence to the time they appeared in court. Currently, for Lusaka, the period ranges from an average of 12 months to six months. I did scrutinise my list for the January 2024 session and found that out of the 20 cases cause listed, the oldest is from November 2022 while the latest is for July 2023,” said Justice Kafunda.