PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says there is need to improve the living standards of inmates because incarceration does not mean loss of human dignity.
President Lungu said inmates are human beings just like any other, thus they should be treated as such, even when they are behind bars.
The Head of State said this when he swore-in Chisela Chileshe as Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) Commissioner General at State House yesterday, witnessed by Vice-President Inonge Wina, among others.
"For me, incarceration of a human being does not entail loss of human dignity. Let us work together and see how we can improve the lives of our inmates and make them feel that they are still human beings," President Lungu said.
President Lungu tasked Dr Chileshe to apply innovative systems to improve the current infrastructure in the ZCS and correctional centres, by creating space for inmates, housing units for members of staff and the general living conditions for both parties.
President Lungu said he had no doubt that Dr Chileshe would excel in that respect, having served diligently in various positions for close to 10 years, after joining ZCS in 2009 as senior assistant commissioner in-charge of health services, till he rose to his current position.
"Let us make inmates feel that they are human beings, they belong to the bigger family of Zambians.
The way we are handling them now of course is not as good as it should be, but there has been a slight improvement from 2011, when we formed Government to now, but I think we can do much, much better," he said.
President Lungu also challenged Dr Chileshe to provide leadership in promoting the Government's economic diversification agenda as outlined in the Seventh National Development Plan.
Mr Lungu said he was aware that ZCS was taking centre stage in focusing on agri-business and agro-processing and was confident that the service would be self-sustaining in providing for the inmates and contribute to the national food basket.
He said he was elated by the ZCS's contribution to the agriculture sector and wanted this to continue.
Dr Chileshe told journalists in an interview after being sworn-in that he would continue from the foundation his predecessor Percy Chato had laid, in responding to the presidential directive on the welfare of the more than 21, 600 inmates countrywide.
On agriculture, Dr Chileshe said ZCS had ample land and that the World Bank had given the service US$4.6 million to be channeled towards irrigation farming.
Earlier, President Lungu met a Japanese delegation led by its Zambian Ambassador Hidenobu Sobashima and said he was appreciative of the cooperation between Zambia and Japan, which he was looking forward to heightening.
He thanked Japan for supporting Zambia in various sectors of the economy and was eager to travel to Japan to strengthen the existing bilateral ties.
Mr Sobashima said he was looking forward to hosting President Lungu in Japan.