In­mates serv­ing life freed

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Daniel Ne­mukuyu in Nyanga

PRES­I­DENT Mu­gabe has par­doned 20 in­mates who were serv­ing life im­pris­on­ment, a de­vel­op­ment that com­ple­ments the Zim­babwe Prison and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices’ ef­forts to de­con­gest the pris­ons.

The 20 were re­cently freed on the Pres­i­den­tial Amnesty and their re­lease co­in­cided with a land­mark Con­sti­tu­tional Court judg­ment declar­ing it un­con­sti­tu­tional for con­victs to be sen­tenced to life in the ab­sence of the pa­role board that gives them hope for free­dom.

The con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge was sparked by the prece­dence that life pris­on­ers were not be­ing con­sid­ered for pres­i­den­tial par­don like any other of­fend­ers.

At the same time, the pa­role board that de­ter­mines the suit­abil­ity of of­fend­ers for early re­lease only ap­plied to of­fend­ers sen­tenced up to 20 years and left out the life in­mates.

In an in­ter­view at a stake­holder’s work­shop on the amend­ment of the Prison Act here, ZPCS Deputy Com­mis­sioner-Gen­eral Hug­gins Machin­gauta, said while his or­gan­i­sa­tion was still wait­ing for an Act en­abling them to set up a pa­role board for life pris­on­ers in com­pli­ance with the re­cent court pro­nounce­ment, some 20 pris­on­ers had been par­doned.

He dis­closed that the 20 were part of the 4 088 pris­on­ers par­doned this year by Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe.

“As ZPCS, we fol­low the law al­ways. When there is no writ­ten law, we wait for its en­act­ment. We are still us­ing the old Pris­ons Act, which does not pro­vide for pa­role to life in­mates.

“How­ever, we are not just watch­ing the life pris­on­ers. Re­cently we re­leased 20 life pris­on­ers, part of the 4 088 par­doned by Pres­i­dent this year.

“We felt the life pris­on­ers were be­ing dis­ad­van­taged and we rec­om­mended their re­lease. We proved to the na­tion that we care for the life in­mates the same way we do to other in­mates with lesser sen­tences,” he said.

Deputy Comm-Gen Machin­gauta said ZPCS rec­om­mended the re­lease of all in­mates who had served 20 years in prison.

When that cri­te­rion was used, 67 in­mates re­mained in cus­tody and now await the en­act­ment of the new leg­isla­tive frame­work that car­ries with it the lat­est court judg­ment on pa­role for life in­mates. Most of the freed pris­on­ers had been serv­ing for mur­der. Pre­sent­ing a pa­per at the work­shop, law con­sul­tant and Uni­ver­sity of Zim­babwe lec­turer Pro­fes­sor Geof Fel­toe, said the ex­pan­sion of the pa­role sys­tem to in­clude life pris­on­ers would go a long way in de­con­gest­ing the pris­ons.

“There will be an ex­panded sys­tem of pa­role for var­i­ous cat­e­gories of of­fend­ers, in­clud­ing those sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment. In­mates will only be paroled af­ter a care­ful risk assess­ment on the like­li­hood of re­leased in­mates re-of­fend­ing.

“An ex­panded pa­role sys­tem will also help to re­duce the prison pop­u­la­tion,” said Prof Fel­toe.

The work­shop con­tin­ues to­day.

Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe

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