JB says Malawi prisons should not be ‘hell on earth’

President Joyce Banda has said prisons should not be “hell on earth” but places where inmates may be rehabilitated and reformed to become productive and useful citizens.

She was speaking on Sunday after attending prayers at Mzuzu Prison in the northern region city where she also donated assorted items including foodstuffs and blankets.

“A prison should be a place for transformation and rehabilitation of the inmates. It is not supposed to be a place where inmates are ill-treated; in other countries, even hardcore criminals enjoy some level of human dignity except that they are being kept in confinement,” said the Head of State.

President Banda at Mzuzu Prison. Photo by Lisa Vintulla/Mana

Rehabilitation

She recognized the fact Malawian prisons face a lot of challenges mainly stemming from lack of adequate resources, but added that her government will soon embark on a comprehensive prison reform programme to make prisons more of rehabilitation centres than punishment arenas.

“Our prisons should not be places where offenders are just punished for their misdeeds, but they should be rehabilitated and trained to take a positive look at life.

“Prisoners should be prepared to be useful human beings ready to be assimilated back into mainstream society and make a positive contribution to the social economic development of our country,” she said.

She observed that not all people that are sent to prisons are guilty.

“Some are here out of different misfortunes; some are here because of legal technicalities, others come here not because they wanted to but because of circumstances. We ought to recognize this fact and treat prisoners with respect,” she observed.

President Banda said she has always had the welfare of prisoners at heart. She recalled that when she was Minister of Gender during the first term of the Bingu wa Mutharika government, she championed many causes that were aimed at improving the plight of prisoners in this country.

Her efforts to visit and help prisoners were however restricted when she fell out with the late president and fired from the DPP in the fall of 2010, she recalled.

The President encouraged the clergy to pray for prisoners so that they become reformed. She thanked God for linking her with the prisoners through the clergy and wished Muslim prisoners a Happy Holy Month of Ramadhan.

Other speakers at the event included Home Affairs Minister Uladi Mussa and the officiating clergy led by Livingstonia Synod General Secretary Reverend Levi Nyondo and his deputy, Reverend Maurice Munthali. The Vice President Khumbo Kachali and his spouse, Martha, were also in attendance.

President Banda at Mzuzu Prison. Photo by Lisa Vintulla/Mana

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