By Dylan Murambgi
Harare, October 31, 2016 – ZIMBABWE’S prison are still far from meeting internationally recommended standards and remain more of places built to punish offenders as opposed to rehabilitation institutions, Zimbabwe’s prisons boss has said.
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services Commissioner, Paradzai Zimondi admitted in an interview with the state media weekend that the majority of the country’s 43 prisons were outdated and lacked basic amenities.
“One of the major problems we have is that most of our big prisons, like Harare Central and Masvingo, were built a very long time ago,” Zimondi said.
“They were built without proper ventilation and do not have adequate washrooms, but these issues are being looked at to see how well we can address them.”
Zimondi said much of the country’s over-populated prisons were built to punish offenders.
“Although after 1980, Government built modern prisons like Kadoma, Mutimurefu, Mutare and Khami in Bulawayo much of our prisons were built to punish,” Zimondi said.
“And it is almost impossible to renovate them because that will mean demolishing them entirely and building new ones, which would be very costly to Government at this moment in time.
“The way forward now is to build prisons which are ideal and which conform to the prescribed United Nations standards.
“These are the things which are always on our minds, to say our prisoners should be in conditions that conform to international standards.”
Zimbabwe’s long condemned prisons have often been described as death zones because of the poor infrastructure and services in them.
Disease and hunger have been the order of the day as government struggles to provide nutritious food to inmates due to recurrent financial challenges.
Numerous deaths have been reported with independent sources saying hundreds of inmates could have died behind prison walls during the 2008 period which was characterised by hunger and a cholera outbreak.
Inmates have depended on donations from the Red Cross Society and other well wishers for food, medicine and toiletries, among others but quite often these do not reach intended beneficiaries as they are pilfered by greedy prison authorities.