I recently tweeted about the tragic conditions of our prisons - the cause was this recent report. Among the issues they looked at was the level of congestion in our prisons. The observation on Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison makes very sad reading :
At Mukobeko Prison, your Committee was informed that the Maximum Security Prison was built just after Independence in 1964, with a capacity of 400 inmates. As at 7th April, 2010, there were 1, 676 prisoners held at the Prison which meant 1, 276 prisoners were held in excess of the 400 initial capacity....
From the Maximum Security section, your Committee toured the female section of Mukobeko Prison. Unlike the Maximum security section, the female section was slightly smaller and cleaner, although the prisoners were complaining of being underfed. Your Committee encountered about thirteen children whose mothers were being held as prisoners. Your Committee learnt that some of the children were born while their mothers were being held as prisoners while a number of them came with their mothers as infants.
The Committee's response and recommendations are telling :
Your Committee urges the Government to ensure that the basic human rights of the prisoners should be observed at all times despite the prisoners’ current status....Your Committee is concerned with the psychological and social development of the children who are confined at the female section on account of their mothers’ incarceration. Your Committee earnestly appeals to the Government to have the children removed from the prison and be placed in a place where they can develop normally.
It is said the quality of any society is judged by how well it treats those who are vulnerable. What sort of country locks up babies on account of their parents? It then proceeds to keep them there because apparently they have no where to go. We are not even talking about high quality jails, but crowded and poorly kept prisons with constant human rights violations. That is no place to bring up a child. I rarely get into activism or push readers into one direction - but it would be a dereliction of duty if I did not ask readers to make this a personal matter and lobby government accordingly. Zambia is better than this. Let us bring this injustice to an end. Please email government on this matter. In the absence of details of George Kunda (the minister responsible for prisons) email Dora Siliya.