Opposition Green Party President Peter Sinkamba has appealed to Republican President Edgar Lungu to consider releasing pregnant women prisoners and those with circumstantial children.
Mr. Sinkamba says in a statement to ZANIS yesterday that Zambian prisons, are among the most congested and unhygienic in the world adding that with the official prison capacity of 6,100 bed spaces, latest statistics show that the country has a total population of 18, 300 prisoners representing a 300 per cent (300%) overcrowding in all the country’s prisons.
In some instances ten inmates share bed-space meant for one. This congestion not only results in overcrowding, but also creates problems of hygiene, sanitation, and general poor living conditions. The conditions are aggravated by the fact over 4,000 or 22 percent of the prison population lives with HIV, he said.
“ The current system does not meet the basic needs of victims. It is a struggle to remain physically and mentally healthy in Zambian prisons, particularly for women and their children. Of the total prison population while 1 per cent (1%) is women while circumstantial children across the country account 0.4% of the prison population, “ said the opposition leader..
Mr. Sinkamba has said that it is commendable that President Lungu pardoned 332 death row convicts by reducing their sentences to life imprisonment saying that this gesture was typically symbolic considering that no prisoner has ever been executed at Mukobeko for the last 18 years (since 1997).
“ However, we plead that the President extends his pardon to women and circumstantial children in prisons whom we believe are more deserving cases than the death row prisoners, “ he said.
On his party’s policy on the matter, Mr. Simkamba said as a result of significant number women enter prisons while pregnant or just after delivery, children are born in prisons or enter prisons to live with their incarcerated mothers thereby rendering them circumstantial prisoners.
“ The children end up being circumstantially subjected to tough prison-life of overcrowding, unhygienic, poor sanitation, and general poor living conditions. It is an extreme struggle for the mothers and children to be physically and mentally healthy. The children have to endure all this tough life for no fault of their own. It is inhuman and unacceptable to keep them is such a state of affairs, “ he said.
He said his Party will undertake a major review of women’s prisons to change the status quo. “ In this regard, the Green Party plans to support the establishment of ‘Family Houses’ for pregnant women and mothers to ensure good sanitation and hygienic conditions to ensure a conducive environment for infants and young children, “ he said.
He added that his party will provide adequate facilities, including taking into account overseas best practice for the design and management of prisons for women and offer adequate rehabilitation and skill development programmes for women in prisons.
“ We will allow adequate visitation rights for mothers and children, and that these rights ought not be removed as a form of punishment as well as Provide support the establishment of small-scale well-resourced nursery and pre-schools for circumstantial children countrywide, to end denial of early-child education rights for babies and young children in prisons, as a means to intensively address serious problem of circumstantial children prisoners, “ said Mr. Sinkamba.