April 27, 2010


This report is based on information collected during four weeks of field research conducted by the Prisons Care and Counselling Association (PRISCCA), the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), and Human Rights Watch in September-October 2009 and February 2010. The Zambian Ministry of Home Affairs granted permission for access to six prisons and to conduct confidential interviews with inmates and staff, with access provided by the Zambia Prisons Service. Researchers interviewed 246 prisoners, eight former prisoners, 30 prison officers in charge and officers, and conducted facility tours at six prisons throughout the central corridor of Zambia. 232 of the prisoners interviewed completed a survey providing information about the prisoner’s incarceration history, medical care, and HIV/AIDS and TB testing and treatment.

Researchers visited six facilities: Lusaka Central Prison (Lusaka province), Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison (Central province), and Kamfinsa State Prison (Copperbelt province); one rural district prison: Mumbwa Prison (Central province); and two peri-urban prisons: Mwembeshi Commercial Open Air Farm Prison (Central province), and Choma State Prison (Southern province).

Researchers also interviewed 28 representatives from local and international organizations working on prison, HIV/AIDS, and health issues, and donor governments and agencies.

Researchers engaged repeatedly with Zambian government officials throughout the course of this research. The research commenced with a workshop, attended by the commissioner of prisons, officers in charge and officials of the Zambia Prisons Service, to introduce the research and identify key prison health concerns of prison officers and officials. Researchers also conducted 18 interviews with officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Health, Zambia Prisons Service, police and immigration services, the Drug Enforcement Commission, the National HIV/AIDS/STI/TB Council, and the National Human Rights Commission. Researchers toured Lusaka Central Prison, the prison clinic, and the University Teaching Hospital accompanied by Dr. Chisela Chileshe, the director of prison medical services. PRISCCA, ARASA, and Human Rights Watch lodged a letter with the commissioner of prisons requesting the Prisons Service’s Annual Reports and statistics on prison staffing, deaths in custody, reports of those who are ill in custody, and reports of assaults and disease in prison custody in accordance with Zambian law requirements that such records be kept [see Appendix]. As of this writing, our request had not been answered. PRISCCA, ARASA, and Human Rights Watch also lodged a letter with the Drug Enforcement Commissioner requesting copies of records or reports on the number and charges of individuals arrested, convicted, and incarcerated in Zambia on drug-related charges. As of this writing, that request had also not been answered.

In each prison visited, the research team requested from the officer in charge a private location to conduct interviews with a cross-section of prisoners held in that facility, including female prisoners, immigration detainees, juveniles,[1]and pre-trial detainees. Priority was given to the inclusion of prisoners from each category rather than proportional representation. Officers identified prisoners who were then provided an explanation of the survey, asked if they were willing to participate, and assured of anonymity in the final report.

Table 3: Prisoner Characteristics

Interviews were conducted in English, French, Bemba, Nyanja, and Tonga, with translation provided by PRISCCA members. Individuals participating were assured that they could end the interview at any time or decline to answer any questions without any negative consequence. The names of all prisoners interviewed and quoted in this report have been changed to protect their identity and for their security.

The average length of time prisoners we interviewed had spent in prison varied widely, ranging from an average of less than one month for adult females at Mumbwa Prison, to an average of 44 months for adult men at Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison. The prisoners we interviewed across prisons had an average age between 30 and 40, and most were of Zambian nationality, though non-Zambian nationals were more common at Lusaka Central and Kamfinsa prisons. Male prisoners had more frequently achieved secondary or higher education than female prisoners. The percentage of married prisoners ranged from 41 at Lusaka Central to 70 at Mwembeshi.

Table 4: Prisoner Interviewee Demographics

[1] Under Zambian law, a prisoner under the age of nineteen years (the minimum age of criminal responsibility is eight years) is classified as a “juvenile,” despite the fact that under international law, 18 year-olds are adults. Throughout this report, the term “juvenile” will be used to designate the category of prisoners ages eight to 18 held in Zambian prisons when necessary to refer to the classification used by the government. Otherwise, individuals in prison under age 18 will be referred to as “children” in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.