PRISONERS have appealed to the Government to consider releasing terminally ill inmates as an immediate solution to decongesting prisons in Zambia.
The prisoners said releasing terminally ill inmates would be a step to addressing the increasing number of inmates leading to congestion.
The concern was raised in Livingstone when Home Affairs Deputy Minister Panji Kaunda visited male inmates at Livingstone Central Prison.
The prison facility accommodates 754 inmates instead of the 250 it was designed for.
Davy Kaunda, an inmate who has been in prison for the past 15 years, proposed to Colonel Kaunda that releasing the terminally ill prisoners was the right course of action to take.
“We know and understand the Government is saying the solution to congestion in prisons is to build more facilities. This is an option but it is not the best under the circumstances, that is why we are proposing that those who are terminally ill and others that have acquired skills can be released,” Kaunda said.
He bemoaned the inhabitable conditions in the prison facilities and appealed to the Government to look into improving the prison conditions.
He also said the slow process of handling court cases was another contributing factor to congestion and appealed to society to accept those released from the prisons instead of mistreating them.
Another prisoner, Chris Siantwala asked Government to start counting the day and night as separate days so that jail terms could be reduced to help decongest prisons.
“In other countries in Africa, they count day and night as two days but here it is just one day and hence congestion is increasing. Somehow, the Government is contributing to congestion. Let’s also start counting day and night like in other countries,” he said.
Col Kaunda expressed Government’s desire to make prisons more habitable through various measures which the Government had put in place.
He said prisons were no longer places of punishment but corrective facilities aimed at reforming inmates to be better citizens.
“The prisoners will not be reformed overnight but we will surely do something to reform them. We have a programme of building new prison facilities and new cells even here in Livingstone.
“These cells will be built by yourselves (prisoners) using the skills you have acquired here so that you can stay comfortably. We believe the building of more cells will alleviate the problems of congestion in prisons,” he said.
Col Kaunda said that most prisons in Zambia fell short of what they were supposed to be looking like in the country.
“There is no way you can say you will be better citizens if you continue living the way you are living. Before the end of this year, I will come here in Livingstone to commission the cells and your diet will also change. I am not saying this to please you but it is a serious matter,” he said.