Malawi dehumanising prison conditions worries Norway

The overcrowding, other degrading and inhuman conditions in the country’s prison service has attracted concerns of Norway which says it will fight to ensure a positive welfare of prisoners and suspects.

Many inmates crowding the cells were on remand for petty offences, waiting for their cases to be heard for months, others years.

“Prisons in the country are congested, which is not ideal for prisoners’ reformation,” noted the Royal Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi Asbjorn Eidhammer during the handover ceremony of Mzuzu Girls Reformatory Centre valued at K50 million to the Malawi Government on Friday.

The reformatory centre is the first girls’ reformatory centre in the country.

“The congestion also heavily affects sick prisoners and young offenders as they are prone to different forms of abuse,” he said.

Overcrowding in Malawi prison
Overcrowding in Malawi prison

Chief commissioner of Malawi Prison Service (MPS) Kennedy Nkhoma said most of the prison structures were built long time ago and were not conducive for reformation of prisoners.

Malawi Prisons Inspectorate chairperson Judge Kenan Manda said there is need to construct more jails to reduce overcrowding in prisons.

“It is important for more cells to be constructed to accommodate the growing number of prisoners, and in turn reduce the problem of overcrowding. Measures for enabling detained persons to have unhindered access to legal information and representation and for the provision of such services should be identified,” Manda said.

“The worthiness, dignity and the physical and mental integrity of every human being is the core of human existence and is inalienable. It cannot be taken away,” said Manda.

Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) chairperson Sophie Kalinde said conditions in the country’s prisons are still worse.

She however said government has improved on prisoners’ access to information, education and legal representation,

“We recognise the major achievements that have been made especially in the areas of protecting rights of prisoners (such) as in fulfillment of the right to education and the right to access justice by prisoners. However, there are still a number of gaps that need to be addressed if prisoners’ rights are fully realised. Some of the gaps include lack of space leading to overcrowding, poor infrastructure, to mention a few,” Kalinde said.

About  13 000 inmates are occupying space  in Malawi jails designed for 6 000 prisoners.

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