“FOR the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even through dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart,” reads Hebrews 4:12.
In line with this scriptural reference, an inmate serving a three-year jail term at Choma Central Prison in Southern Province says he is convinced that “the word of God has more power to transform our (inmates’) lives and make us better citizens compared to the stiff punishment imposed on us by the courts of law.”
Doubt Muyuni, 31, who was sent to prison last year for theft by servant, is convinced that once inmates are fed with the word of God, they can be transformed into responsible citizens who can help develop the country after being released from prison.
Muyuni said this in Choma recently when the Prison Fellowship of Zambia care group launched a week of prayer and construction of a skills training shelter at Choma Central Prison.
“You [church] need to keep coming here because this word of God that you have planted in us needs to be watered for it to geminate and bear fruits. We [prisoners] can only change and become better citizens not by stiff punishment that the courts impose on us but by the word of God,” he said in a vote of thanks after Bishop Agrippa Sitaleka of Yaweh Centre shared a sermon with over 400 inmates.
Muyuni, who has since become a minister of the word of God for the past year he has been in incarceration, urged church leaders and members of the community to find time to visit prisoners and remind them about the love of God.
“When we see you people, we feel uplifted and know that despite the situation we are in, some people care for us and we are not alone,” he said at the event graced by Southern Province permanent secretary Sibanze Simuchoba.
And on the challenges inmates face, Muyuni cited inadequate accommodation as one of the major problems experienced at Choma Central Prison, which has 406 remandees and inmates against the 120 it was built to accommodate.
“These two rooms here are too small to cater for all of us and we find challenges in sleeping because there is little space,” he said.
Muyuni said presidential pardons and parole of inmates could be a solution to decongesting the over populated prison.
“We also need barrels that we can use at our toilets so that we can enhance sanitation. We need mattresses, plates and above all educational materials for the skills training that is being given to us in here.”
Muyuni also bemoaned the long time that convicts stay in prison without their cases, especially appeals against convictions, being heard by the courts.
He described this development as a violation of human rights which needs to be corrected because it also leads to artificial congestion in the already crowded penitentiary.
His other concern was night power outages, which he said is a serious security risk that needs urgent attention.
And speaking when launching the week of prayer and construction of the over K7,000 skills training shelter, Mr Simuchoba commended the Prisons Fellowship of Zambia care group for complementing government’s efforts in rehabilitating inmates countrywide.
He pledged government’s commitment to providing technical and material support to the construction of the shelter at Choma Central Prison.
Mr Simuchoba commended the prisons fellowship care group for implementing various programmes, such as the week of prayer and construction of a shelter, aimed at giving hope to the inmates.
“The shelter you intend to construct today will not only be for skills training but will act as a place of peace and relaxation for the inmates,” he said.
And Mr Simuchoba challenged the detainees to make the best out of their time in prison and become better and productive citizens once freed.
Meanwhile, Prisons Fellowship of Zambia care group chairperson Reverend Lemmy Penta said the week of prayer dubbed “Love and Mercy” was aimed at promoting love and mercy among all citizens regardless of their status in society.
“We are launching these two events because we attach great importance to the welfare of prisoners, former prisoners, their families and the victims of crime,” Rev. Penta said.
He urged the inmates to embrace the “Love and Mercy” theme by praying for people they offended and those who hurt them.
And Prisons Fellowship of Zambia board governor Elizabeth Masiku said once constructed, the training centre will play a crucial role in equipping inmates with skills that will help them better their lives after completing their sentences.
Ms Masiku reiterated the prisons fellowship’s desire to ensure prisoners reform and become better citizens, equipped with entrepreneurial skills.
The skills being offered at Choma Central Prison include carpentry, tailoring, gardening and bricklaying, among others.
“It will be very painful for me to see prisoners coming back here into prison because we failed to empower them with skills to fend for themselves. That is why we want to ensure the construction of this shelter is finished by November this year,” she said.
Ms Masiku, however, said the care group is in need of more materials for construction of the shelter but was confident that building the structure would be completed on time by God’s grace.
She commended government for being committed to working with stakeholders like the prisons fellowship in improving the welfare of inmates.
“I also thank the Patriotic Front (PF) for visiting us and showing solidarity,” she said in reference to Choma district PF chairperson Kebby Mbewe who represented the ruling party during the visit to the prison.
The event was characterised by songs from various Choma Central Prison choirs and a prayer session by the clergy from Prisons Fellowship of Zambia.
The prayers were for those in remand to receive a just and fair trial and be reconciled and welcomed by the community and their families if they are released.
It is hoped that those outside prison will find time to visit or pray for the transformation of inmates, who will one day be reintegrated in society where they are expected to be better citizens.