By Staff Reporter
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government have set plans to build more open prisons in all the country’s 10 provinces as it scales up efforts to expand its rehabilitative programme for convicts, Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Secretary Virginia Mabhiza said.
Officially opening the three-day regional conference on prisons in Harare Wednesday, Mabhiza said the open prison system will also deal with HIV and AIDS, and tuberculosis (TB) among other health issues, in attempts to provide healthcare facilities within prison settings.
The meeting, held in partnership with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), is aimed at learning and sharing experiences while advocating for improved access to HIV and Aids, Adolescent Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (AYSHR) services to prison populations.
The issues are said to be more prevalent in prisons due to overcrowding.
The country’s prison population stands at over 20,000.
“I am pleased to mention that the government has approved a proposal to construct at least one purposefully built open prison in each province while some selective existing prison facility will also be given facelift to suit the conditions of the target groups,” said Mabhiza.
“This is a clear indication from moving away from the previous punitive system to the more reformative regime to a more rehabilitated system.
“That will see more emphasis being put on the rehabilitation of offenders especially the juveniles and youthful inmates as well as women.”
She added; “Rehabilitation is part of many regional instruments aimed at improving prison conditions throughout the continent.”
“The Ministry of Justice is not lagging behind and Zimbabwe Prison Correctional Services has also embraced the concept and we are on the drive not only improving the correctional facilities but also improving rehabilitating programmes.”
The conference is being held under the theme, “Leaving no one Behind: Promoting Quality Health for Prisons Populations especially Juveniles and Youth in Southern Africa”.
Zimbabwe’s first open prison is located near the Midlands capital of Gweru. It started as a pilot project two decades ago.