THE Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) needs to accelerate the adoption of modern technological systems and applications in line with its envisaged “smart prison” concept, President Mnangagwa has said.
Under the smart prison concept, ZPCS is benchmarking its services within the framework of international prison standards and management trends.
ZPCS is no longer hinged just on the secure incarceration of inmates sent to prison by the courts.
While keeping that function, it is now stressing the need for correction, to rehabilitate prisoners and teaching them enough skills so that they can cope when they are released.
Hence, the task is to rehabilitate inmates through production and skills transfer. This will ensure that while inmates are serving their prison terms, they should be seen producing enough to feed themselves, producing surplus for the national granary and gaining knowledge and skills that are critical for their livelihoods after release from prisons.
In his keynote address during the 150th recruit correctional officers’ pass-out parade at Ntabazinduna Prison Training School on Monday, President Mnangagwa said ZPCS should strive to keep abreast with the ongoing digital revolution.
“I am aware that work is in progress with regards to the adoption and implementation of the smart prison concept. This institution is challenged to accelerate the adoption of modern technological systems and applications so as to keep abreast with the ongoing digital revolution while improving prison administration efficiencies,” said the President.
“Prisons and correctional management systems the world over, are evolving in response to the emerging realities.”
He said in Zimbabwe, focus has changed to the correctional aspect as opposed to the punitive and retributive approach synonymous with the colonial era.
Cabinet’s approval of the principles of the Prisons and Correctional Services Bill of 2022 in March is one of the major milestones as the Government scales up modernising and reforming the country’s prison systems.
The Prisons and Correctional Services Bill 2022 seeks to modernise the prisons legislation with a view to ensuring that it meets international norms and standards regarding prisons administration, including the way prisoners are treated.
This includes focusing on restorative justice through rehabilitation rather than just incarceration of offenders.
The proposed Prisons and Correctional Services Act also ensures that the prison system caters for the needs of vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, juvenile offenders as well as persons with disabilities and other special categories in society that have special needs.
The legislation further seeks to promote community involvement in the ZPCS in order to ensure that prisoners will not face difficulties and hostility and are accepted back into communities and within their families.
The proposed Act also extends an inmate’s right to consult with a medical practitioner of their choice at their own expense. In tandem with the Constitution, the legislation affords inmates access to their lawyers before and during their trials.
In addition to that, President Mnangagwa said the opening of the female open prison in Marondera bears testimony to his administration’s commitment towards reducing the challenges associated with over-overcrowding and improving the living conditions within prison facilities.
The issue of overcrowding in prisons is problematic as it stretches limited resources and there are over 19 000 prisoners in 46 facilities countrywide.
President Mnangagwa said the Government remains committed to accelerating infrastructure development across many correctional facilities, and also improving the general conditions and welfare of ZPCS staff.
“I, however, exhort the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to prioritise the construction and completion of outstanding staff accommodation,” he said.
“Our prison and correctional service officers and their families deserve access to institutional accommodation thus in a way contributing to improved standards of living.”
President Mnangagwa urged the graduates to be loyal, patriotic, disciplined and professional by upholding the precepts of the ZPCS mandate. He noted that corruption, crime and other acts of misconduct remain an anathema within the uniformed forces and the country at large.
The President also commended the excellent contribution of the country’s security personnel deployed in various United Nations peace-keeping missions, saying the nation takes pride in their professionalism, competency, skills, knowledge and the responsible attitude they display in both regional and international missions.