Building smart prisons tops our agenda

05 Dec, 2021 - 00:12 0 Views
Building smart prisons tops our agenda

The Sunday Mail

President Mnangagwa last year appointed Commissioner General Moses Chihobvu to head the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) with orders to modernise the country’s prisons system. After clocking a full year in office, The Sunday Mail spoke to Comm-Gen Chihobvu(CGC) about his time in office and his plans for ZPCS.

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SM: You were appointed Commissioner General of the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service last year, taking over from the late national hero, Major-General Paradzai Zimondi. Can you outline the work you have undertaken as head of the ZPCS over the last year?

CGC: Since my assumption of office as head of the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) in November 2020, there has been some notable improvements in a number of areas.

For instance, under institutional accommodation, courtesy of Treasury support, we have completed building a total of 41 semi-detached staff houses at Chikurubi Prison Complex, with construction work on staff houses still ongoing.

More so, plans are underway to construct more staff houses to accommodate our officers across all our administrative provinces.

In terms of farm mechanisation, the ZPCS managed to acquire some farm machinery and implements which include 20 x 80hp tractors, three x 228hp combine harvesters and 10-by-8 row seed drill planters valued at US$1,9 million courtesy of Government’s Belarus Agricultural Farm Equipment Programme.

Indeed, the provision of such equipment will no doubt impact positively on the department’s agricultural production endeavours.

Hence, we look forward to an improved harvest this farming season because our farms have better equipment as compared to the previous years.

Restructuring of the department is another area to note. Through this exercise, three senior officers were elevated to the rank of Deputy Commissioner-General, two of them being female. This is an indication that as a Government department, we are gender sensitive and we remain committed to address gender disparity across all our rank and file, and give our officers equal opportunities.

In the same vein, I am also happy to note that a total of 1 905 non-commissioned officers and 1 169 commissioned officers were also promoted to various ranks.

In terms of staffing, during the period under review, the ZPCS recruited 1 202 members of staff who successfully underwent their basic recruit training, while another recruitment and selection exercise is currently ongoing.

The ZPCS has been experiencing perennial transport challenges, which greatly affected the service’s administrative and operational duties.

However, courtesy of our continuous lobbying for Government support, I am glad to mention that during the period under review, some vehicles were purchased for the ZPCS.

These include 22 single-cab trucks, eight UD lorries and a 30-tonne haulage truck.

Save for the 30-tonne haulage truck and a few lorries which are still undergoing some modifications, most of the vehicles have since been handed over to stations across our administrative provinces.

The provision of these additional vehicles has not only boosted our depleted fleet, but has gone a long way in enhancing our administrative and operational duties.

Through Government’s support, we are hopeful that more vehicles will be procured to cater for our administrative and operational endeavours, as well as catering for officers’ conditions of service.

SM: Can you outline your vision for ZPCS?

CGC: To start with, the vision of the ZPCS is “To Become the Leading Correctional Service Provider in The Region and Beyond by the Year 2030”.

The ZPCS is committed to achieving this vision by discharging its constitutional mandate, which is to protect society from criminal elements through the incarceration and rehabilitation of convicted persons and others who are lawfully required to be detained, and their reintegration into society, and the administration of prisons and correctional facilities.

Hence, to attain this requires and calls for each and every member of the service to effectively and efficiently discharge his or her duties.

Now given this backdrop, my vision is to see and have a fully staffed and resourced ZPCS that is capable of not only churning out improved service delivery in terms of sound, humane and safe incarceration of offenders, but to also have a competitively productive and business-oriented ZPCS that offers sustainable offender-rehabilitation programmes and reintegration systems to inmates.

This conception is driven by the fact that the ZPCS of today is no longer hinged on the secure incarceration of inmates, but in addition to safe and secure incarceration, it is now correctional in outlook and business-oriented.

Hence, the task is to rehabilitate inmates through production and skills transfer.

This will ensure that while inmates are serving their prison terms, they should be seen producing enough to feed themselves, producing surplus for the national granary and also gaining knowledge and skills that are critical for their livelihoods when they are discharged from our prisons and correctional institutions.

To achieve this requires continuous staff training and development as a way of capacitating and empowering our officers for them to deliver in line with the obtaining global prison management trends.

SM: The Second Republic has among its priorities prison reform to align your work with the dictates of the Constitution. What sort of reforms have you introduced since your appointment?

CGC: In line with the Constitution of 2013, the organisation rebranded from the Zimbabwe Prison Service (ZPS) to the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS).

The inclusion of the correctional aspect witnessed the department taking a more pronounced reformist approach to prisons and correctional management system.

In this regard, credit goes to the first Commissioner-General of the ZPCS, now late Major-General Paradzai Zimondi, who laid the foundation which we are happy to be riding on.

Given such vital a foundation, the department’s name is now double-barrelled in that it provides for short-term protection of society through the provision of safe and sound custodian services, as well as long-term protection of society through correction, rehabilitation and empowering offenders through skills transfer to enhance their sources of livelihoods upon discharge from our institutions.

The ZPCS Five-Year Strategic Plan (2021-2025) Key Result Area 2 speaks to rehabilitation and reintegration with a goal to enhance rehabilitation programmes and reintegration processes. This goal is achieved by adopting crime-specific rehabilitation programmes and transforming the mind-set of offenders through imparting livelihood supporting skills such as vocational and technical training.

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Another vital area is to transform the officers’ mind-set through retraining in identified areas to ensure that officers are in conformity with the transition from a closed society approach into an open system that places emphasis on good corrections in line with the ZPCS’s paradigm shift from the retributive to a correctional and reformative thrust.

The period under review has seen the introduction of correctional concepts within our staff training programmes, including the basic recruit training curriculum.

More so, the ZPCS Staff College is rolling out staff development programmes which are more biased towards social sciences that include psychology, sociology, counselling, law and corrections, to mention just a few.

The correctional package is meant to enrich our human capital development programmes, which are aimed at capacitating and empowering both officers and inmates.

Therefore, the curriculum has been transformed in line Section 227 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe that outlines the establishment and functions of the prisons and correctional service.

SM: Over the years there have been reports of food shortages in the prisons. What have you done to ensure that there is enough food for inmates?

CGC: Admittedly, there were reports of some incidents of food shortages within prisons, which were attributed to a number of factors that include, but are not limited to, late or non-provision of the required farming inputs, lack of farm mechanisation and adverse weather conditions.

However, I am glad to mention that production efforts have been scaled up at our prison farms.

For instances, previously there are times when vegetables were bought to feed inmates but this time around the prison farms are producing enough vegetables not only to feed the inmates but producing surplus to give some hospitals.

Now given the provision of the above stated farm equipment, hopes are high that production will be doubled, if not trebled.

The resuscitation of and/or drilling of boreholes at most of the farm prisons has boosted our irrigation capacity, thereby enhancing our production levels, especially under horticulture.

SM: The country has been battling the Covid-19 pandemic for nearly two years now and there were fears that there could be catastrophic outbreaks in prisons. What have you done to ensure that Covid-19 is contained?

CGC: It is a fact that the Covid-19 pandemic did not spare us.

I am happy to mention that with the assistance and support from both the Government and the business community, the ZPCS has managed to contain and limit its effects within our prisons.

As part of the measures to contain its spread, the ZPCS has been religiously following and adhering to both the WHO and national guidelines and protocols to prevent the spread of this virus.

More so, given our committed frontline workers (health staff) coupled with the provision of some PPEs, wearing of the face masks and sanitisation by officers, inmates and even our dependents, this has greatly minimised the mortality rates and those affected.

Those infected had been secluded to curb the spread of the disease.

Uptake of vaccination has also been quite pleasing.

The vaccination campaign has 90 percent of our officers, 63 percent of inmates and 30 percent of our dependents being fully vaccinated.

We are also cognisant of the fact that there is a new variant that was recently detected in Botswana and South Africa, hence the ZPCS continues to conduct awareness campaigns within its cantonment areas.

In terms of statistics, a total number of 992 officers and 2 038 inmates were infected with the virus, with 32 deaths being recorded (10 officers, 18 inmates and four dependents).

SM: What sort of mechanism have you introduced to reduce overcrowding in prisons?

CGC: Overcrowding has been a challenge in some of our facilities.

As a department, we continue to advocate through the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for the imposition of non-custodial sentences for minor crimes as well as remanding those awaiting trial out of custody.

As ZPCS, we would also like to appreciate the Government, which, through the Presidential Amnesty, facilitated the release of quite a number of inmates.

The Presidential Amnesty has helped in decongesting the prisons.

However, as a long-term solution and with the support from Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, I am pleased to mention that plans are underway to build modern and bigger prisons in line with the reform agenda.

SM: Earlier this year, the Marondera Female Open Prison was opened, becoming the first such facility in Southern Africa. Can you outline what the open prison system entails and how it will help modernise our prison system?

CGC: The ZPCS, through the open prison system, seeks to complement its drive of rehabilitation of offenders by giving more and wide opportunities to deserving inmates.

Furthermore, the open prison system complements the non-custodial options by removing deserving inmates from closed to open prison institutions, wherein the emphasis is on rehabilitation, counselling, empowerment through skills transfer as well as reintegration.

The system helps in the reintegration process of offenders by bridging the gap between inmates and their respective family members as they serve their prison terms.

In fact, the open prison system allows and gives inmates time to go for both home and holiday visits, hence families are kept in touch.

The establishment of Marondera Female Open Prison serves as another route of modernising the prison system in that its structures are purposefully built and it also has facilities for children accompanying their mothers in prison.

For instance, the institution has purposefully built learning facilities, health facilities tailor-made for pregnant mothers, among other recreational and rehabilitation programmes and activities.

SM: Are there any plans to rehabilitate prisons in line with the Government’s ongoing infrastructure development programme?

CGC: Indeed, there are plans to rehabilitate and modernise our prison institutions so that they are in sync with our correctional thrust.

In fact, the ZPCS Strategic Plan’s Key Result Area 1 looks at service delivery, which entails the incarceration and improved welfare of inmates.

The goal is to improve security infrastructure and protect society through the incarceration and rehabilitation of offenders.

This is achieved by building modern prison institutions that include open prisons that are more humane, rehabilitation and reintegration-oriented.

In addition, with Government’s support, the ZPCS envisages to modernise its prison system through the adoption and implementation of the smart prison concept.

This entails establishing an effective information, communication system by embracing and investing in modern technology as well as modernising the prison infrastructure through ICT and physical buildings.

We are already in the process of identifying which prisons should start.

SM: How many prison escapes were recorded this year and how do these figures compare with those of previous years?

CGC: You are aware that no human being wants to be kept under a controlled environment and no one wants to live without one’s freedom and being under guard every minute.

Given this, chances are high that given an opportunity to escape, one might be tempted to make good his or her escape.

It is for such reasons that the ZPCS has experienced some escape incidents.

A total of 59 escapees have so far been recorded in year 2021 as compared to 48 recorded over the same period in year 2020.

However, notwithstanding such escape incidents, the ZPCS continues to conscientise its staff on the need to be vigilant during the call of duty.

Those found wanting, disciplinary action has been and will continue to be taken against them as part of deterrent measures against laxity on duty.

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