Overpopulation in Malawi’s prisons is set to ease a bit after President Joyce Banda on Thursday freed 281 prisoners as part of Easter celebrations.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement made available to Nyasa Times that the freed prisoners had “served at least half of their prison sentences with good behaviour and were not convicted of serious offences.”
Banda’s clemency excludes criminals facing serious charges including rape or any sexual offenses on young girls, carjacking, armed robbery and murder.
Malawi’s 23 prisons hold 12 000 inmates – double their capacity.
A recent study commissioned by the Malawi Prison Services and funded by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), identified congestion and general poor sanitation as some of the factors leading to the high rate of contagious diseases.
The study also revealed a high HIV prevalence of up to 40 percent which was partly attributed to homosexuality.
The report which was presented by Dr Geoffrey Chipungu from College of Medicine at an advocacy workshop in Blantyre, for example, says the prevalence HIV among male inmates is 40.6 percent in central prisons, 22.9 percent in medium size prisons whereas small size prisons have 19.1 percent.
Retired judge Duncan Tambala once described the impoverished country’s prisons as “hell on earth” due to poor conditions.
Banda, who became Malawi’s president after her predecessor’s death in April 2012, is seeking election in May 20 general elections.