By RICHARD MUPONDE
ZIMBABWE Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) has said reforms to include prisoners enjoying conjugal rights are not a priority, but the focus was on equipping inmates with life skills that would be useful when they are reintegrated into society.
Calls have been made by non-governmental organisations and some legislators to accord prisoners conjugal rights.
The country’s 46 prisons hold 19 396 prisoners, of which 458 are female prisoners and the remainder male inmates. The number includes both convicted and those on remand.
In an interview yesterday at the ZPCS stand at the ZITF, the organisation’s spokesperson, Chief Correctional Officer, Meya Khanyezi said they were preoccupied with improving the lives of inmates than focusing on less important things like sex.
“That’s not an issue which we can spend time discussing. Incarceration means certain rights and freedoms are taken away so that you reform. Just take a scenario where one has been convicted on rape and we give that person conjugal rights, would that make sense?
“Let’s focus on imparting life-improving skills to our inmates, so that when they come out they will be able to fend for their families. Right now, we want more open prisons for women, no one is lobbying for that, but sex for inmates,” Khanyezi said.
She said her organisation was geared to rehabilitate inmates and remove stigma associated with going to prison.
“What has remained of prisons are the buildings only, but the whole system is correctional, hence the change of name for our organisation from ZPS to ZPCS. We want to produce people who are useful to society, who can be readily accepted back in society without being stigmatised.
“That’s our main focus. This is witnessed by many industrial skills we are imparting to inmates in our prison workshops,” she said.
In 2016, former Zanu PF Senator for Mashonaland West, Tapera Machingaifa speaking in Parliament called for married prisoners to be accorded conjugal rights from their spouses once in a while to help reduce cases of homosexual relationships in the country’s prisons.