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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A prisoner amnesty

President Sata recently freed 2,318 prisoners under the Presidential Prerogative of Mercy as part of the Africa Freedom Day commemoration. According to Home Affairs Minister Kennedy Sakeni, the gesture was a response to appalling conditions in prisons and is in line with the PF's manifesto of turning the prisons into correctional service facilities. It was also part of Government's commitment to "finding lasting solutions to the persistent problems of congestion in our prisons. We need to have conditions that foster humane treatment in tandem with international standards”.

Presumably it is cheaper to maintain those left behind. More surprising though is that the pardon includes those who were sent to jail for corrupt activities. Perhaps in the future a better criteria can be used. Whatever one thinks of the amnesty, contrary to the Minister's assertion it is not a "lasting solution" to anything. Amnesties will not solve our prison problem which are largely due to an imbalance between supply of prison infrastructure and demand of it.  The demand is not only due to crime levels, but also because we produce many laws that we don't need; have fewer court and judicial capacity which has led to high remand levels which current stand at 35%; and, are spending more money on policing (catching criminals) than on rehabilitation. 

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