Prisoners have human rights too


In yesterday’s issue we carried a story titled: One meal a day for prisoners, in which three MDC-T activists who spent 33 months in remand prison reinforced in our minds the gloomy picture of the conditions in the country’s prisons.

NewsDay Editorial

Zimbabwe’s prisons are generally known to be death traps due to the appalling conditions prevailing therein.

These prisons no longer serve their purpose as correctional institutions since they have transformed into death dungeons because of the State’s negligence and inadequacies.

The country’s prison system needs reform to ensure that prisoners are treated as human beings, not as animals. Being a prisoner is not tantamount to forfeiture of one’s human rights. Punishment should be within the confines of human rights standards.

In this country the way prisoners are treated leaves a lot to be desired. Inmates are subjected to hunger, disease and degrading conditions among other things.

“People are dying every day of hunger in custody. This week prison authorities started giving inmates only a single meal a day,” said one of the MDC-T activists. Such predicament is due largely to the ever-increasing prison population and harsh laws that must be changed.

For instance, Section 121 of the criminal code which allows the State to instantly revoke bail given by a magistrate or judge does nothing other than unnecessarily increase the prison population. The government should admit that it is running on a tight budget that cannot adequately cater for the ballooning prison population and action should be taken to ensure that only deserving cases result in imprisonment. We have seen people spending lengthy spells in remand prison only to be acquitted or for their cases to be “forgotten” later. We have many “forgotten prisoners” in our jails.

Such practices are a serious abuse of human rights leading to unnecessary overcrowding in prisons. It is an open secret that detention conditions in the country’s prisons are inhuman, degrading and cruel and they are the worst form of inhuman punishment imaginable. Prisoners have the right to be free from brutal and inhuman punishment.

The prisoners’ woes are compounded by the fact that those manning the prisons are underpaid leading them to seek bribes from prisoners’ relatives to ensure “comfort” for their relatives behind bars.

The underpaid prison personnel also adopt a nonchalant attitude towards the welfare of the prisoner. It is worrisome to have a situation where the State fails to provide prisoners with a basic need such as food because by the nature of their circumstances, prisoners do not have the ability to feed themselves.

It is the State’s primary duty to ensure prisoners get basic items such as food. Contrary to the provisions of the law, the quantity, variety and quality of food served to prisoners is inadequate leading to death by starvation.

This is unacceptable and the blame lies squarely on the State’s shoulders. Prisoners are human and they should be treated as such.


  1. i do agree to tht fact ofwhich some of the inmates are being judged guilty ofwhich they are innocent and to some yes they are guilt but lets drive our mind from taking jail as hall where u burn for your sins but as a rehabilitation centre where that bad mind is taken off and install a good and better mind of humble living in community

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