Malawi prison conditions still worse: 79 inmates die due to crowding, police brutality- report

A report on the monitoring of prisons in Malawi by the Malawi Human Rights Commission 9MHRC), for the period between December 2011 and March 2012 has revealed that 79 prisoners died due to a number of causes.

According to the report three prisoners in Mangochi died in cells while another in Nsanje died at the District Hospital due to police brutality.

At the workshop of the prison monitoring report in Lilongwe, it was learnt that 19 prisoners died of Aids-related diseases. Out of these, 11 prisoners were from Zomba prison, five from Mulanje prison, two from Mwanza prison, and one from Chikwawa prison.

Two prisoners, one each from Mangochi and Zomba prisons, died of Tuberculosis.

Overcrowding in Malawi prison
Overcrowding in Malawi prison

Five people died of diarrhea, two of whom were from Chichiri prison, while three were from Mangochi. Zomba prison also recorded one death resulting from dysentery.

Three prisoners from Thyolo prison died of cancer, while one from Mangochi died of the same cause. Three others died in Mangochi due to Malaria.

Apart from the three prisoners who died in prison cells in Mangochi, all the prisoners in the eight prisons died at the districts’ respective hospitals.

Those from Chichiri prison died at Queen Central Hospital (QECH), while those from Zomba prison died at Zomba Central Hospital.

The report has not recorded where the five from Mulanje prison died. The report has however not indicated the cause of the result of the deaths.

The report has since attributed the cause of the sickness in prisons to congestion.

“Sickness in prisons is due to common congestion, limited ventilation and lack of separation of infected prisoners. Diseases like tuberculosis, HIV and Aids and skin ailment easily become epidemic. It is therefore important that sick prisoners are separated from others,” reads the report.

In November 2009, the Constitutional Court ordered government to meet minimum standards for treatment of prisoners including provision of food, clothing, accessories and cell equipment apart from appropriate accommodation and ventilation after Gable Masangano and other inmates took it to court.

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.

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.

Chief Commissioner of Prisons Kennedy Nkhoma said they have inadequate funding to provide better conditions, livelihood skills and education to all inmates, adding the 13 000 inmates are occupying space designed for 6 000 prisoners.

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