Lilongwe — Government has pledged total support and commitment to improving prison conditions in the country.
Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Cecilia Chazama said this Monday in Lilongwe at Maula Prison during the launch of US$ 3.5 million Prison Management Reforms and Health Management Delivery Systems in Malawi prisons.
She said the improvement of the prisons conditions as part of government's effort in driving the reform agenda to improve the working condition in the public sector.
Chazama admitted that prison conditions in the country continue to be described by many as dehumanizing largely because most of the prison cells are congested making it more difficult to manage health issues.
The Minister said government is doing everything possible within its limits to make sure that such challenges are dealt with speed to conform to the Mandela Rules that set the Minimum Standard for the Treatment of Offenders.
"The availability of adequate food, clean water, good sanitation and well-ventilated infrastructure is therefore paramount in achieving such level of excellence within our prison in the country," Chazama pointed out.
She said government has constructed additional cellblocks in some prisons besides facilitating the review of the Prisons Act that shall provide a framework for modern correctional management.
The Minister pointed out that government is fully aware that the sentence of imprisonment constitutes only a deprivation of the basic right to liberty.
She added that imprisonment does not entail the deprivation of all other human rights and it would ensure that the rights of prisoners are protected and their prospects for social reintegration increased, in compliance with the relevant international standards and norms.
Chazama commended Royal Norwegian Embassy for making a commitment of a four-year funding to the Department of Prisons through United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to implement the programme.
Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi, Kikkan Haugen said the project would help with the provision of human living conditions through social service delivery, food security, health and rehabilitation in preparation for a life after prison.
He said this would help in facilitating efficiency in the judicial system to reduce overcrowding including finding solutions such as alternative sentencing, pardon and other forms of release.
UNODC Regional Representative for Southern Africa, Zhuldyz Akisheva said Malawi need technical assistance in capacity building for fundamental criminal justice reform in order to achieve sustainable change in prison management.
She noted that Malawi prisons systems are facing a number of challenges which require collective approach from various stakeholders.