Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Retired Major-General Happyton Bonyongwe has called for the decentralisation of open prisons to all provinces as a way of promoting successful reintegration of offenders into society upon completion of their sentences. The open prison system also serves to take care of pregnant women, those who are jailed together with their babies and others with special cases.
Zimbabwe has one open prison in Gweru, Connemara Open Prison, for men. The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services had resolved to start preparatory work for the constructing another open prison for women in Marondera. However, Minister Bonyongwe, hailed the move, but advised that decentralising the open prisons to all provinces will effectively serve the intended purpose.
Addressing senior prison officers in Harare on Wednesday, Minister Bonyongwe said his ministry was committed to mobilising funds for the project. "I concur with the observation that a centralised open prison approach cannot serve as a proper halfway home given that it could be located far from some of the inmates' relatives, resulting in their relatives and friends failing to visit the inmates as often as desired.
"Constructing the Marondera open prison is in order, but we must at least build others for the Northern and Southern regions. "The intended purpose will well be saved when the open prisons are spread to all provinces. "As a ministry, we will leave no stone unturned to mobilise resources for the construction of the open prison centres," said Minister Bonyongwe.
ZPCS Commissioner-General Retired Major General Paradzai Zimondi said an open prison for women was urgently required to cater for women, who are jailed with their babies and others with special conditions. "We do not have a purpose-built institute for female offenders. More so, as some of the inmates would be pregnant and some have babies accompanying them in prison.
"Having an open prison system will, therefore, address some of these challenges. Plans are already in place to build a female open prison in Marondera though the limiting factor is lack of resources," said Commissioner-General Zimondi.