April 27, 2010

Conclusion

According to international law, the penitentiary system shall treat prisons with the essential aim of reformation and social rehabilitation.[675] International standards encourage, prior to prisoner release, prisons to take steps to reintegrate the prisoner into society.[676] Yet Zambia currently makes little, if any, provision for reintegration of prisoners, an omission to which inmates attributed a significant recidivism rate. One prisoner at Mwembeshi reported that “there is no planning with us for release. For inmates, when we finish our sentence we face stigma in the community....I used to see it when I was outside—and I am afraid it could happen to me. When we go outside, we don’t have anything to do.”[677] Another at Mumbwa reported, “there are no re-entry services. People are poor when they get out, so they come right back.”[678] One former prisoner reported being “destroyed” when he came out of prison, financially and personally.[679] “When you come out of prison, you are looked at as an outcast, not as a human being,” said another.[680]

The officer in charge at Mwembeshi reported:

We need real rehabilitation.  Many of the inmates here are not criminally minded.  Many crimes are circumstantial.  People commit offenses because they want to make a living.  They need economic empowerment.  If one shows an interest in farming, we should help with capital so they have a chance at a new life.[681] 

The offender management officer at Mwembeshi concurred: “On discharge people have nothing. We don’t have the resources to bring them to their homes and they are stigmatized upon re-entry, causing recidivism.”[682]

Keeping in mind that, typically, all but a small percentage of prisoners return to the community,[683] and that the prison community is inextricably linked to the general population,[684] Zambian prisons need to improve conditions in the prisons and measures to reintegrate their inmates into the general population post-release, as not simply a matter of prisoner health, but a matter of public health.

Improving the conditions in Zambia’s prisons will require significant changes on the part of the Zambia Prisons Service, and will also require the coordinated efforts of actors throughout the Zambian government, civil society, and international agency and donor communities. In addressing general prison conditions, the Zambia Prisons Service will be unable to effect necessary change without improved support from Parliament and the international donor community. To improve the delivery of medical services to prisoners, NGOs, international agencies and donors, and Zambian Parliament will also play a role in improving the availability and accessibility of services. To reduce the drastic overcrowding that now plagues the prisons, the Zambian judiciary, Parliament, police, and immigration officials will be indispensable in ensuring necessary changes to the law, implementation of non-custodial alternatives, and increased efficiency of the judicial process. Clearly, resource constraints are a major consideration, but greater priority on prison funding needs to be put at the national level and greater support from international donors needs to be forthcoming if change is to be effected. Some reforms—particularly the proposed legal reforms—are resource-neutral; those that aren’t are crucial to the realization of the rights of prisoners and are the responsibility of both the national government and international donors.

[675] ICCPR, art. 10; UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment 21, para. 10.

[676] Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners, prin. 10.

[677] PRISCCA, ARASA, and Human Rights Watch interview with KT-06-03, Mwembeshi Prison, October 6, 2009. See also PRISCCA, ARASA, and Human Rights Watch interview with KT-06-06, Mwembeshi Prison, October 6, 2009 (“The other problem is, when we are coming out, the government does not give you anything to start with. When someone’s life is destabilized, he needs a ladder. This is a very big problem. It makes some come back here several times, because once he goes out, he has nothing to do. When we go out, the government should give small capital to start a job. There is no planning for our release.”); PRISCCA, ARASA, and Human Rights Watch interview with Agnes, Kamfinsa Prison, October 1, 2009 (“The major problem affected the other inmates here—there is no addressing of post-discharge, how to cope with our life that we left. The prison administration does not address it—they look at the now, not at the future. I have had some education sessions—mainly dealing with acquiring capital to start a small business. But I need practical skills in tailoring. It is hard to stay here for one year doing nothing.”).

[678] PRISCCA, ARASA, and Human Rights Watch interview with Andrew, Mumbwa Prison, October 5, 2009. See also PRISCCA, ARASA, and Human Rights Watch interview with Japhet, Mumbwa Prison, October 5, 2009 (“Our economy cannot sustain that, the prisons need to ensure that people’s skills are improved or used, or one will go back to crime. It needs to change and develop, all jails in Zambia are congested. There needs to be a broader approach to introduce jobs in jail. People come here and leave worse off than when they first arrived.”); PRISCCA, ARASA, and Human Rights Watch interview with Mwisa, Choma Prison, October 8, 2009 (No re-entry programs,  that is why people come back to prison.”).

[679] PRISCCA, ARASA, and Human Rights Watch interview with former prisoner, Lusaka, February 5, 2010.

[680] PRISCCA, ARASA, and Human Rights Watch interview with former prisoner, Lusaka, February 5, 2010.

[681] PRISCCA, ARASA, and Human Rights Watch interview with officer in charge, Mwembeshi Prison, October 6, 2009.

[682] PRISCCA, ARASA, and Human Rights Watch interview with Ms. Kaluba, offender management officer, Mwembeshi Prison, October 6, 2009.

[683]K.C. Goyer et al., “HIV/AIDS in Prison: Treatment, Intervention and Reform: A Submission to the Jali Commission,” undated, p. 8. UNODC, UNAIDS and World Bank, “HIV and Prisons in Sub-Saharan Africa,” p. 11.

[684] UNODC, UNAIDS and World Bank, “HIV and Prisons in Sub-Saharan Africa,” p. 2.