Deputy Minister of Mother and Child Health Jean Kapata discovered the national hobby of locking up infants in prison is alive and well, during her tour of Lusaka Central Prison last week:
"Our main interest is the children who are in prison because their mothers have been incarcerated. We will sit down with the Ministry of Home Affairs and come up with lasting solutions....the Department of Social Welfare is mandated to look after children who are in prison with their incarcerated mothers and any other vulnerable ones, hence our stake in the prisons".
We have children being born and staying in congested prisons. A shameful situation that we have previously flagged up. At Lusaka Central Prison alone, there are "three boys and three girls and a newly-born baby". This is at a prison which was built in 1924 to hold less than 240 inmates but now has 1,162 inmates. There appears little prospect that the new Government will sort this situation out urgently because for a start issues of related to prison reforms are not in the PF manifesto and never got mentioned in the President's speech.
This practice apart from being a violation of human rights is also economically foolish. We are raising prisoners - how will these children grow up? We are current preparing a paper on juvenile justice addressing this issue and the low minimum age of criminal responsibility.