Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
Large groups of non-violent prisoners have had their sentences reduced to the time they have already served in prison and so can now be released under a Presidential amnesty gazetted yesterday.
Those eligible for immediate release, so long as they were not found guilty of the specified offences that generally cover crimes of violence, are: women prisoners who have served at least half their effective sentence; juvenile prisoners who have served a third; those sentenced to 36 months or less who have served half; and those over 70 who have served half.
In addition, all prisoners, regardless of offence, who have been bed-ridden without recovery can now be released and all those serving their sentence, again regardless of offence, in an open prison.
Those serving life sentences, whether this was the original sentence or was commuted from a death sentence, can be released if they have served at least 25 years.
Prisoners who have spent at least 10 years on death row will have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
Prisoners who are serving sentences longer than 36 months and who have served at least a third of that sentence are now given an extra quarter for their remission. The general rule is that a prisoner can be given a third off if they behave properly. This part of the amnesty means these prisoners can be released after serving just five twelfths of their sentence.
Those excluded from the immediate release provisions, except the bedridden or the open prison inmates, are those convicted of: murder, treason, rape or any sexual offence, carjacking, robbery, stock theft and public violence, plus any conspiracy, incitement or attempt to commit these crimes or being an accessory after the fact to these crimes.
Also excluded are prisoners who benefited from a previous amnesty who were then convicted again and jailed, those jailed by a court martial, which would apply to certain offences by members of the defence forces, and prisoners who have a record for escaping from lawful custody.
President Mnangagwa used his constitutional powers of mercy to effect the amnesty, desired to reduce the prison population to levels that can be accommodated safely.
But he only cut sentences to shorter terms. All the released prisoners and those with shorter effective sentences still have criminal records and, if a portion of their original sentence was suspended, those suspended sentences can be brought into effect should they re-offend since the amnesty order only looks at remission of effective sentences.