Covid-19 scare: Zim prisons urge speedy release of 6 000 amnesty candidates

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By Ndatenda Njanike

PRISON authorities in Zimbabwe have called on government to speed up its release on prisoners through a promised amnesty to try and minimise the impact of a possible coronavirus outbreak and spread within the country’s prison population.

Government announced recently it was going to set free, up to 6 000 prisoners under an amnesty that was meant to decongest the country’s jails.

Among those set to be pardoned are prisoners serving time for non-violent crimes.

However, in a statement Wednesday, the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) urged government to expedite the process amid continued panic in the country over possible outbreak of a disease that has tormented the entire world.

Through its national Public Relations Officer, Superintendent Khanyezi Meya, ZPCS said the virus was easier spread within confined areas hence the need to speedily decongest the country’s overcrowded jails.

“It is ideal that our organisation takes preventive measures to curb the transmission and to begin with, it is desirable that an amnesty to free some offenders be implemented to ease pressure on the prison population which is above holding capacity,” Meya said.

“Prisons are confined institutions. Communicable diseases such as Covid-19, among others have greater chances of spreading in these places and could pose serious health and logistical challenges, should cases of the virus get recorded.”

Meya added that prisons must take measures to protect inmates through good hygiene, hence the need for provision of sanitisers, soaps, detergents and most importantly, sufficient water.

“Issues of hygiene are of importance with regards to mitigating the spread of the virus.

“Ideally, prison settings should be provided with basics such as soaps, sanitisers and detergents and above all sufficient water.”

Prisons pledged to minimise visits by relatives in light of developments around the virus during this time.

“It is also vital to minimise visits to prisons in light of further developments around Covid-19 particularly at a time when gatherings are discouraged until the situation normalises,” ZPCS said.