The Zambian government, in partnership with the German government, has launched the Zambia Correctional Service Prison Audit aimed at speeding up the dispensation of justice for citizens.
Gracing the event, Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Jack Mwiimbu, disclosed that following concerns on the effects of overcrowding and the welfare of inmates and other persons in custody, it was agreed that a study be conducted to assess the state of prisons and correctional facilities.
Mr Mwiimbu explained that prison audits are critical in understanding general caseload characteristics to enable an informed decisions.
He said some of the caseload characteristics include a proportion of inmates on remand and those sentenced, inmates by offence, inmates by the level of security classification and average time spent in correctional facilities among other characteristics.
He reiterated that the government is committed to ensuring the protection of the rights of inmates and that prospects for social reintegration are increased in compliance with relevant international standards and norms.
“The audit being launched today has been organised to undertake an assessment of the status of correctional facilities to identify and consolidate the key issues causing overcrowding in order to come up with remedial measures,” Mr. Mwiimbu said.
The minister also reiterated the government’s commitment to enhancing the criminal justice system by bringing on board relevant stakeholders so that cases are disposed of in good time.
And Minister of Justice, Mulambo Haimbe, disclosed that the government is in the process of introducing an automated case-flow management system which will link all justice institutions.
Mr Haimbe said this will help to track cases and also enhance transparency and accountability in the system.
The minister added that the government is considering the criminalisation of petty offences and effective use of non-custodial sentences as a set out in the envisaged legislative reforms of the penal code.
And representing the German government, GIZ Enabling Access to Justice Civil Society Participation and Transparency (EnACT) Programme Manager, Johanne Strohecker, said the prisons audit will ascertain possible recommendations for implementations of legal avenues to decongest facilities.
Ms Strohecker said the German government is willing to support Zambia’s population to have access to accountable institutions, to justice and transparent government decision-making processes.
She disclosed that the programme consists of four main outputs that include policy reforms, dialogue and civic space, accountability and transparency, legal aid and LegalTech.
Meanwhile, Zambia Correctional Service Commissioner General, Fredrick Chilukutu, disclosed that the service has been experiencing unprecedented increase in the population of inmates.
Mr Chilukutu revealed that the average daily unlock stands around 24, 000 against the holding capacity of 9,150, translating into an overpopulation of 163 percent.
He has therefore noted that the prisons audit is premised on finding solutions to the challenges faced in correctional facilities.