Malawi President Peter Mutharika has disclosed that his administration is reviewing the Malawi Prisons Act to make sure that prisons are governed within a framework that rhymes with the United Nations standard minimum rules for the treatment of offenders.
Mutharika made the disclosure when he presided over a graduation of 730 recruit prison warders in Malawi’s commercial capital city in Blantyre – the largest graduation ceremony in the country’s history.
“My Government would like to see a Prison Act which puts rehabilitation of offenders at the centre of prison work,” he said.
The Malawi leader explained that his administration will make sure that prisoners go through reformation and rehabilitation programmes during the time they are in.
“Prisons should therefore, not be viewed as detention centres for punishment but rather, where people who are found on the wrong side of the law are given a chance to change into useful citizens,” he said.
The President acknowledged the existence of challenges that the Malawi Prisons Service is going through, but indicated that all efforts were being made to address them.
“Government is aware of the high levels of overcrowding in our prisons. Similarly, the issue of poor and dilapidated infrastructure is an issue that Government is working on to address,” he said.
He added that efforts were also being made by Government with support from its stakeholders to address the problem through the construction of new prisons as well as expansion of existing infrastructures.
“Government is also promoting the use of alternatives to custodial sentencing,” he disclosed.
He explained that an effective community service system will therefore offer an opportunity to all those that have committed less serious sentences to serve their sentences within their communities thereby avoiding unnecessary congestion in prisons.
The President also indicated that government is aware of the problem of understaffing in the Malawi Prison Service which has put the warder to prisoner ratio at around 1:10 against the internationally recommended ratio of 1:5.
“This therefore, is the main reason that the Government has recruited and trained the 730 prison warders that are graduating today. The trend will continue until we get closer to the recommended ratio as set out by the United Nations,” he assured.
He congratulated the newly graduated officers, advising them that their graduation only marked the beginning of the long journey ahead of them as prison officers.
“The Malawi Prison Service has invested a lot in you and it expects you to deliver on its objectives. I am advising you to take your job seriously because the Government is taking issues of security very seriously,” advised.
He warned them against abusing inmates, saying such acts were contrary to section 19 of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi which outlaws abuse prisoners whether physically or otherwise.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to extend this warning to all other serving officers within the Malawi Prison Service,” he stated.
The Government, he said, is committed to upholding the rule of law and as such, it will not condone any malpractice.
“Your duty is not to punish but rather to rehabilitate and reform prisoners so that they become productive citizens to contribute to the socioeconomic development of this country,” he advised.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :