Minister assures Malawi govt committment to improve prison conditions, rights of  inmates

Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Cecilia Chazama has pledged total support and commitment to improving prison living conditions  and  upholding prisoners’ human rights in the country.

Haugen: One of the problems in Malawi is that many criminals are sentenced to very long prison sentences for relatively small offences
Malawi government to improve living conditions in prisons
Malawi Prison: Some of the inmates at the event.-Photo by Tione Andsen

Malawi prisons notorious for their poor hygiene, overcrowding and spread of disease has over 13 000  inmates against a space capacity of 7 000.

According to the State-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC)  report, the overcrowding affects health of prisoners and access to adequate food and other basic needs.

Living conditions in Malawi jails are said to degrading, inhuman and life threatening.

Overcrowding  in Malawi prison is as a result of high crime rate in the country, gaps in the criminal justice system, delays in handling cases and limited access to bail and appeal.

Prison facilities also continue to serve inmates a substandard and insufficient meal once in a day, contrary to expectations of human rights bodies that the minimum and acceptable requirement is nutritious meals to be given three times per day.

The insufficient meal, which is nsima, but sometimes in a porridge-like form and served with beans or pigeon peas, is served around 2 and 3 in the afternoon for inmates that are deprived breakfast.

But Chazama said on Monday in Lilongwe at Maula Prison during the launch of US$ 3.5 million Prison Management Reforms and Health Management Delivery Systems in Malawi prisons that the government is working to  improve conditions and reduce congestion in the country’s prisons.

“The availability of adequate food, clean water, good sanitation and well-ventilated infrastructure is therefore paramount in achieving such level of excellence within our prison in the country,” Chazama said.

The minister said government has constructed additional cellblocks in some prisons besides facilitating the review of the Prisons Act that shall provide a framework for modern correctional management.

Chazama  pointed out that government is fully aware that prisoners are supposed to enjoy the same human rights as every citizen with the exception of being imprisoned.

The minister  commended Royal Norwegian Embassy for making a commitment of a four-year funding to the Department of Prisons through United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to implement the programme.

Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi, Kikkan Haugen said the human rights of prisoners are part of Malawi’s international human rights obligations.

He said  the project would help with the provision of human living conditions through social service delivery, food security, health and rehabilitation in preparation for a life after prison.

Haugen said this would help in facilitating efficiency in the judicial system to reduce overcrowding including finding solutions such as community sentence, pardon and other forms of release.

Norway has been supporting various activities to improve conditions in Malawi’s prisons for the past seven years.

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