Lest we forget the imprisoned population

Superintendent Priscilla Mthembo
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service has a vital obligation to protect society from criminal elements through ensuring that offenders are safely and humanely incarcerated in preparation for release after imprisonment.

This essential role is done through bankrolling effective and efficient rehabilitation programmes that are meant to equip offenders with life survival skills so that they reunite with society as morally, physically and psychologically upright citizens.

The global trends of incarceration place an emphasis on an all-stakeholder involvement in both rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for them to be a success.

Offenders usually face difficulties, especially during the transition from correctional facilities to the outside world, which results in the continuation of the offending cycle.

In this regard, ZPCS has embarked on a range of structural offender rehabilitation programmes that include social and psychological rehabilitation, skills training, arts and recreational programmes, to ensure inmates are fully prepared for release.

Demystification of the essence of incarceration becomes essential, especially when approaching the festive season where everyone is merry-making and holding various celebrations, including the birth of Christ. Inmates’ visitations are not only an expression of love and forgiveness, but are also a great motivator that keeps those behind bars out of trouble and gives them something to look forward to, particularly during the festive season.

Regular contacts with the outside world also helps maintain family and community relations and go a long way in reconstructing inmates’ behaviour in the correctional facilities as well as upon release. Isolating correctional facilities from the surrounding communities compromises both offender rehabilitation and reintegration, and renders the whole essence of incarceration inherently useless.

Thus ZPCS challenges society to intervene in all its programmes for the betterment of offenders’ welfare and to counter recidivism.

As we are in the festive season, let us, therefore, remember those behind bars and help them reform, adapt well to rehabilitation programmes and look forward to fully utilising another chance that would have been accorded to them by us as members of society.

Apart from the adult population found within prisons, a number of children find themselves behind bars due to offences committed by their mothers. ZPCS and society have a role to play in ensuring that these vulnerable children’s rights are observed despite being in prison with their mothers.

The rights include growing up in an enabling environment, access to food and health and reducing the psychological effects of the prison environment to their young minds.

The expectations of getting spoiled are certainly never lost to children despite the environment they are in. These expectations can only be fulfilled by members of society through providing goodies, toys and celebrating with the young ones accompanying their mothers in prison.

Superintendent Priscilla Mthembo is the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service Acting Public Relations Officer.

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