NYANGA — Female inmates are set to benefit from an open prison system that the government is proposing to introduce very soon, a senior government official has said.
BY NUNURAI JENA
Speaking at a UN Human Rights Mechanisms for the Implementation of Zimbabwe’s Universal Periodic Review National Plan of Action workshop in Nyanga last week, permanent secretary in the Justice ministry, David Mangota said preparations to introduce the open prison system targeting women, especially those with babies, were at an advanced stage.
“The imprisonment of mother and child has been worrisome and we have tossed a number of ideas and are convinced that women are not as dangerous as men,” said Mangota.
“So we decided to have open prisons for women folk. All mothers will benefit from open prisons for the benefit of the child.”
Mangota, however, said the open prison system had challenges as some women might get pregnant during the time they would be serving their sentence.
Some participants suggested that the open prison system should only apply to breastfeeding mothers, but others insisted that it must be applied to all women.
Father Edward Ndete of the Roman Catholic Church told participants to the three-day workshop that women were “special species” and deserved preferential treatment.
Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (Zacro) director Chief Edson Chihota bemoaned lack of resources to start the open prison in the country.
“As Zacro we are happy with such an initiative because looking at the conditions that are currently prevailing in prisons, we feel that there is need for an open prison for female inmates, but the unfortunate thing is that the corporate world or even the international community are not coming up with the much needed support,” said Chihota.
The country’s new draft constitution proposes abolishing the death sentence for women and those under the age of 21 and above 70 years.
However, pro-life activists say the draft does not go far enough.
Organisations such as Zacro and Amnesty International are pushing for the total removal of the death penalty.
Zimbabwe prisons can hold 19 000 inmates. At the moment there are 14 000 prisoners countrywide of which about 600 are female.