A UNITED States-based human rights team has produced a damning report on the alleged inhuman treatment of prisoners at most of Zimbabwe’s prison centres.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
The report, produced by the United States Department of State Bureau of Democracy and Human Rights (DRL), which was compiled before the recent presidential amnesty, said there was overcrowding, inadequate lighting and ventilation, while insufficient mattresses, blankets, warm clothing, sanitary supplies, and hygienic products were common at many facilities.
“Prison conditions remained harsh, partly due to overcrowding in older urban remand facilities, and the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) struggled to provide adequate food and sanitary conditions,” the report read.
“There were approximately 18 000 prisoners, spread across 46 main prisons and 26 satellite prisons, and while some prisons operated below capacity, Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) reported that overcrowding continued, due to outdated infrastructure and judicial backlogs.”
The human rights team said: “Prison guards occasionally beat up and abused prisoners. But NGOs reported that the use of excessive force by prison guards was not systematic and that relations between prison guards and prisoners improved during the year.”
The report said NGOs reported that the conditions of female prisoners generally fared better than their male counterparts, with authorities holding women in separate prison wings and providing female guards.
“NGOs were unaware of women inmates reporting rapes or other physical abuse. With support from NGOs, prisons distributed some supplies such as sanitary pads for women. In contrast to previous years, a local NGO working in the prison system reported prison officials stopped reserving many of these supplies for themselves,” reads the report.
On juveniles, the report said, there was one juvenile prison housing boys only, with girl offenders sharing same facilities with adult female inmates.
The US report also said prisoners with mental health issues were often held together with other prisoners and received limited specialised care.
“According to the ZPCS, remand prisons were overcrowded. Authorities often held pre-trial detainees, with convicted prisoners until their bail hearings. Due to fuel shortages, the ZPCS was at times unable to transport pre-trial detainees to court hearings, resulting in delayed trials,” the report said
There were also reports of severe food shortages although malnourished prisoners were given additional meals.