Zambian Prison reforms a must



By Kelvin Esiasa

Of late the Zambia Prisons Service has been making a number of progressive announcements. Early this year, Zambia Prison Service announced that it had started the transfer of prisoners from Mukobeko to Mwembeshi Maximum prison.

Secondly, ZNBC aired a documentary in which Zambia Prisons Service informed the nation that they had set up a milling plant so that it could produce maize meal for prisoners.

Recently, Zambia Prison Service (ZPS) Commissioner Mr.Percy Chato announced that it would start offering higher education programmes to prisoners on long term sentences. All these measures are welcome and need support from everyone.

PrisonersPrison reforms in Zambia are a matter of urgency. Prisoners in Zambia were facing a lot of difficulties. The prison authorities in Zambia had reported that  prisons were congested. Prison authorities also complained of lack of proper sanitation, accommodation, foods, shortages of water, bathing soap and clothes in prison.

There were also reports about the way Zambian Prisoners were looked after. Some sections of society are on record to saying that there were cases of homosexuals in prisons. Others suggest that there was ill treatment of prisoners in Zambia. The recent visit by the Republican Vice President Dr.Guy Scott revealed a number of issues.

In his address to journalists, the Vice President said that prison life was hell on earth. The comments by the Vice President suggested that prisoners were living in undesirable conditions. Human Rights Commission also raised concerns about the way prisoners were kept.

So, initiatives developed by ZPS need to be supported by all Zambians. Zambians should help the ZPS to turn itself into a reformatory institution where prisoners go in to reform rather than to be turned into hardcore criminals. It is sad to that ex prisoners were again involved in criminal activities .

In some cases, the nation had been informed that ex convicts were the master minders of hardcore criminal activities in society. There have been also cases where ex convicts had murdered their ex spouses upon being released from jail. These cases show that prisoners were not changing even when they had undergone jail sentence. Therefore, ZPS should come up with measures on how to reform inmates.

So, the announcement that ZPS would offer higher education programmes to inmates is a welcome move. This would enable the prisoners to secure their future. ZPS should define their curriculum properly so that the inmates can get the best out of the education they would receive.

It should also integrate the education curriculum with industry so that their graduates are not rejected from the industry. ZPS need also to develop community services that were based on lobbying the industry to accommodate former inmates to work in their companies.

The establishment of the milling plant is a big plus for ZPS, for once ZPS has demonstrated that it can perform if given the support. Commissioner Chato informed the nation that the milling plant would produce enough mealie meal for the prisoners and the remainder will be supplied to the nation.

Therefore, the general public should support ZPS by buying their products.The high command should ensure that people employed under the milling plant are professionals and had the desire to perform. ZPS should also ensure that individuals employed in the department should not look at the opportunity as a payback time, but they should understand that they should compete and treat the company like any other private company in Zambia.Therefore, ZPS should devise conditions that are favorable for this company so that it can be a self financing organization.

Lastly, ZPS should strive to develop reforms that would turn ZPS into real reformatory institutions.

Kelvin Esiasa – President Zambian Society for Public Administration and Society for Family Business.