Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Cecilia Chazama has described the construction of new cell blocks at Maula Prison in Lilongwe as a positive step that would ensure that the prison is decongested.
Chazama made the remarks when she commissioned the two prison cell blocks which have been constructed with funds from the Malawi Government. Each cell block has two cells meaning four cells will have been added when the project is completed.
She observed that prisoners are bonafide citizens too, which calls for their improved living conditions for them to experience the reform process in totality.
“The idea behind the prisons is not to punish the offenders but rather reform them to be responsible citizens because it is a correction centre. And for the prisoners to reform, they need to have a proper place to stay,” said Chazama.
According to Chazama, construction of the cells has been done using prison labour as a way of cutting costs and also equipping inmates with vocational skills.
She said prisons experienced challenges of spread of diseases due to congestion but now that will be history.
She hailed Malawi Government for pumping in financial support towards the project, saying the country can do a lot without necessarily relying on development partners for such projects.
Chief Commissioner of Prisons, Wandika Phiri concurred with Chazama, saying the cell blocks will go a long way in reducing congestion at the facility.
“Although the construction of the two cell blocks here at Maula Prison will not in totality solve the challenge of overcrowding at this prison station, it will, however, serve some purpose by reducing congestion from 460 per cent to 115 per cent,” she said.
According to the Chief Commissioner of Prisons, congestion will be reduced further through other alternative means such as periodic review of prisoner records and cases, intensification of rehabilitation programmes and introduction of the parole system.
Wandika, however, asked government to consider improving the staff housing situation in Malawi Prison Service as it focuses on reducing congestion in prisons to improve their living conditions.
Patrick Andrew Phiri of Siyasiya, Traditional Authority Khombedza in Salima District told Malawi News Agency on the sidelines of the commissioning of the cells that the facilities would ensure prisoners are accorded the much needed space for reformation.
Phiri, who is serving a twelve year jail term, said the new cell blocks will go a long way in reducing congestion as well as communicable diseases amongst the inmates.
“The new cells are big in size and are well ventilated, which will reduce or completely eradicate diseases such as Tuberculosis, scabies and hepatitis. Even the way we sleep will improve, unlike in the past where we used to sleep as if we are bags of maize or something,” he said.
He said this brings hope to the inmates as it shows government considers them as citizens under reformation who will be responsible when they get out of prison, not necessarily those who broke the law.
The serving offender then appealed to government to consider extending this gesture to other prisons as well as putting in place measures that would curb habitual offending.
“Most of the people in prisons are the very same people who were released and are convicted again. Government should ensure that prisoners are equipped with skills which they would use once they are released and in so doing, it would curb habitual offending,” he said.
Construction of the K235 million worth of the two cell blocks commenced in the 2015/16 financial year and is expected to accommodate a maximum of 800 inmates.
Maula Prison is a central prison which caters for almost all districts in the Central Region.
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