Parliament flags overcrowding in Zimbabwe prisons

HARARE – Parliament on Thursday raised concern over overcrowding within the country’s jails with Harare Remand Prison having the most inmates at 1,485 against a holding capacity of 900 inmates.

According to a report presented in the National Assembly following visits to prisons by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, major prisons are overcrowded.

“At the time of the visits, it was gathered that Harare Remand Prison with a holding capacity of 900 inmates was housing approximately1485 inmates inclusive of 154 prohibited immigrants.

“At Bindura Prison, a prison cell with a holding capacity of 20 inmates was housing 87 inmates instead,” said the committee.

As of August last year, Zimbabwe’s combined prison population stood at 22,114 against a holding capacity of 17,000 inmates.

The Committee attributed overcrowding in prison institutions to the passing of custodial sentences by courts as opposed to alternative sentences.

The committee felt the problem also emanated from the continued remanding of accused persons in custody as opposed to granting of bail.

“Officers at Chikurubi mentioned that the lack of adequate and appropriate space for detained mental patients has led to Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service assuming custody of mental patients; thus, overcrowding in prisons.

“To intervene against overcrowding, ZPCS and inmates were of the view that the Judicial Service Commission should consider imposing non-custodial sentences for minor crimes, remands out of custody, and constant release of inmates on amnesty,” it said.

The last presidential amnesty for inmates was in 2021.

The committee suggested that adequate support from the government in building modern and bigger prisons in line with the reformative agenda would also assist in decongesting prisons.

The committee said inmates were also wearing torn prison garb.

“Unconvicted male inmates have even resorted to wearing their civilian clothes which in turn creates an uncomfortable and unconducive working environment for female officers who were expected to be guarding these inmates throughout the day,” said the committee.

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