5 November 2012

Tanzania: Prisoners Are Entitled to Humane Treatment

Photo: Facebook
Man behind bars.


RECENT revelations in the National Assembly that the government plans to grant conjugal rights to inmates are most welcome. But, behold! Prisoners are and will always be humans and the facilities may be home to any one of us.

The government says that the idea is to reduce incidents of sexual abuse that are said to be on the increase but by extension the move will go a long way in granting prisoners their basic rights while serving time. Incarceration basically results in physical confinement and deprivation of a range of individual freedoms as a form of punishment. This normally happens when an individual is convicted and receives a custodial sentence requiring imprisonment.

Confinement and deprivation of certain freedoms is alone considered enough a punishment for an average person. There have been concerns from certain quarters that imprisonment as a punishment is inhumane, demeaning and undignified thus must be substituted by a more civilized form of punishment.

This may be true considering the fact that prisons do not only hold convicts who have committed the most heinous offences. Suspects charged or likely to be charged with criminal offenses may be held on remand in prison as well as defendants awaiting trial or a trial verdict. Prisons may also be used for those not charged with a crime. All these people need to be treated in a humane and dignified manner which includes ensuring that their basic rights are not violated.

Ideally, prisons are meant to be correctional facilities where offenders are taken away to reform and be able to fit into society upon their release and become productive citizens. But ill-treatment of prisoners is certain to have the reverse effect.Prisoners who feel that they have been abused and violated while in confinement are likely to take their anger on society and become repeated offenders instead of reforming. In turn they become incorrigible regardless of the number of times they are sent to jail.

If this were to be the effect of correctional facilities, it would most definitely not augur well for our society. That is why it is of paramount importance that the conditions in prisons be improved and prisoners be treated with a bit more dignity.Otherwise there are always alternative sentences that do not require individuals to be imprisoned.

As the state looks into granting more rights to those in prison, alternative forms of punishment such as community service should also be made common.

Such punishment will reduce government spending on prisoners, benefit societies and guarantee the offenders their freedom and other rights but most importantly ensure that they reform.

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