‘Escape’ route for convicts

27 Nov, 2022 - 00:11 0 Views
‘Escape’ route for convicts

The Sunday Mail

Theseus Shambare

Ex-convicts have in most instances faced several obstacles in their bid to reintegrate into society after incarceration. The hurdles include failure to secure employment.

Most employers are naturally reluctant to hire an individual with a criminal background, and starting a business becomes an easier option for many.

However, it is not a stroll in the park for ex-convicts as society, financial institutions included, shun them. Starting a business is an uphill task for former prisoners as they usually do not have enough income or savings. Without the necessary support, former convicts have been left with little or no option, but to resort to crime upon release.

This is a predicament the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) is trying to address through its rehabilitation and reintegration thrust, which is aimed at preparing convicts to live as law-abiding citizens within society.

To date, ZPCS has taken inmates who are professionals — including mechanical engineers, farmers, artists, sports personalities, clergymen and carpenters — through tailor-made programmes.

“Financial institutions are not ready to engage anyone with a criminal record, worse, an ex-convict,” said ZPCS provincial health promotions officer, Ms Loice Garise, during a recent anti-drug and substance abuse awareness campaign in Wadzanai township, Shamva.

She said prisoners are taught different life skills depending on individual capacity while others opt for the academic route.

“From our statistics, it is clear that 60 percent of crimes committed are related, in one way or the other, to drug and substance abuse.”

Ms Garise said, with resources and the necessary support to ex-convicts, chances of having repeat offenders would be limited.

“Too often, they are released with nowhere to go. People leaving prison are at high risk of homelessness for one reason or the other. Some may have been homeless before entering prison. So, having them financially empowered is a noble idea; it helps them abstain from drugs and reduces the crime rate,” reckons the ZPCS official.

Financial support

Stakeholders of the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Drugs and Substance Abuse who attended the awareness campaign acknowledged that drug and substance abuse is the leading cause of crime in the country.

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima, who is also the task force chairperson, said there is need for financial support to inmates and ex-convicts for the rehabilitation process to be complete.

“Letting them go back into society with nothing to do is a recipe for disaster. We need EmpowerBank to have a facility tailor-made for prison inmates such that it will enable them to start their income-generating projects from the skills they get from the correctional service,” said Minister Mavima.

The World Drug Report cites Zimbabwe as one of the countries affected by the scourge.

“Sadly, the affected cohort falls within the productive age group, and this has detrimental effects on the socio-economic development of our country. The country should urgently face this problem head-on and collectively develop and implement programmes and activities to arrest this vice by economically empowering them,” said Prof Mavima.

Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Dr Kirsty Coventry revealed that they are working on alternative recreational activities that will divert the youth from crime.

“As the nation moves forward, leaving no one behind, it will be fruitful if we render financial support to these youths for nation-building. It is a collective issue. As the task force, we need to take this idea offline and see how best we can implement it, with the engagement of Treasury and the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

“We have to see how potentially the bank can work with inmates that have received qualifications in prison so that when they come out, we can assist them with their respective business plans. We need to mould businesspeople from prisons. This will help them not to go back to the bad habits,” said Dr Coventry.

Banks, however, need collateral.

“Banks need assurance on how they will recover their money, and that is what we are going to work on. We may have inmates start their projects while they are still in the custody of the ZPCS such that by the time of their release, they might have serviced the loans,” explained Minister Coventry.

Some Western countries offer grants to ex-convicts to dissuade them from crime.

Mashonaland Central Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Senator Monica Mavunga said empowering inmates is a necessity.

“Inmates are released with skill and knowledge but with no financial support to run their projects. If the inmate is a farmer, there is need for capital for inputs; that is what we need to work on. Having inmates who are self-reliant is nation-building, leaving no one behind, as nobody will be found destroying the next person’s property,” argued Senator Mavunga.

“I am happy that our ministers are realising that gap. There is need for all inmates who are about to finish their jail terms to be given monetary capital for whatever project they were trained in.This means the ZPCS will have to help the inmate with project proposals and offer professional guidance in the implementation of the project to ensure the inmate will repay the loan,” said Shamva South National Assembly legislator Mr Bramwell Bushu.

He further said those who prove to be academically good must be given “another chance” and join the Government and serve the nation in the field they trained in.


Security and crime expert Mr Brian Kashangura said providing loans to serving and former convicts is a noble idea but has its downside.

“There are some dangers. When others discover funds are being offered to convicts, some might end up committing crimes just to access the loan facility. Deterrent measures must be put in place beforehand so that we have a few people committing crimes, then help those few,” advised Mr Kashangura.

While prisons are correctional service centres, he said, they should still retain tough disciplinary measures to deter would-be offenders.

“They need to prove that they have reformed. This must be proved by working hard in custody and repaying their loans before they are released, otherwise we will continue having criminals committing the same offences to attract loans,” warned Mr Kashangura.

International Wellness Centre founder and chief executive officer Dr Nkululeko Dhewa weighed in.

“There is a possibility of having some thinking of committing crime in order to access loans. However, that is an insignificant fraction. No one wants to be in prison.

“As long as Government continues to fight drug abuse, we will have less crimes. Idleness, drug abuse and crime are interconnected,” said Dr Dhewa.

As part of rehabilitation, he urged, inmates should also be assisted on drug withdrawal, then access loans thereafter.


Henry Sekai (31), who is serving a seven-year sentence at Bindura Prison, said serving time has helped him realise his potential.

“I have acquired a lot of life-changing skills during my jail time. I regret wronging society by committing crimes. Also, my jail time made me have a divine encounter with God. I am now a born-again man,” said Sekai.

Sekai is now a man of the cloth and has since attained a pastoral and theology diploma. Clayton Canaan was dangerously hooked on drugs and was abandoned by his family before being incarcerated.

However, he is now reformed after getting assistance. Prof Mavima pledged to assist Canaan establish a poultry project, among other things. “I am happy that Minister Mavima is willing to assist me start a new life,” said Canaan. The minister also promised to send Godknows Zindondi (19) back to school after he dropped out to pursue drugs and crime before being arrested.

Twitter: @TheseusShambare


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