Botswana Prisons Services (BPS) new commissioner on Monday promised Public Accounts Committee wide-ranging changes amid concerns of inmates' escapees from prisons.
Dinah Marathe who is the first female Commissioner of BPS informed the PAC that her resolve is to build a high-performance culture in the prisons department whereby people are held accountable the manner in which they rehabilitate the prisoners.
Marathe who is the former deputy commissioner of Botswana Police said that to achieve that she will advocate for the welfare of prisons officers.
Marathe in a blunt assessment given to members of the PAC said fixing the troubled Prisons' department is to ensure that the warders' welfare issues are addressed and everything will fall into place as warders will be able to look after the inmates knowing very well that welfare issues are addressed. "I am going to serve the organization with honor and distinction and work with other officers to ensure that we have high performance BPS," she said.
Marathe conceded that the welfare of the prison officers is of paramount importance if they are to achieve their main strategy of rehabilitation. She vowed that she will ensure the welfare of prison officers is addressed.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Marathe acknowledged that it will be difficult for parents of some inmates especially juveniles' ones to be visited in prisons.
To address that she revealed that they are putting up video conferencing facilities in their prisons to allow parents to check on their children without having to travel a lot and compromising their health.
"This will also restore hope on their inmates as they will see that they are not on their own and help on their rehabilitation and integration into the society," she said.
She appealed to PAC members to support them when seeking funding to implement the technology in their prisons.
In the previous PAC appearance, the then BPS Commissioner Col Silas Motlalekgosi appealed to Government to allocate land to his institution to help in producing food for Botswana. "We can help in achieving food security in Botswana if we can be supported with land," he said before PAC, addin that this can help in rehabilitation of inmates if they do something productive at a large and commercial scale for a fee.
Marathe said they are working on what his predecessor has been advocating for, by coming up with a food strategy which was drawn from the National Food Strategy of Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. She said they have already started to implement the strategy and are developing their farms in Selibe Phikwe, Molepolole, Ghanzi, Mahalapye and Maun in order to produce their own food.
"We have already given Ministry of Transport some funds to procure tractors and other agricultural implements for us. We are expecting to have four boreholes in some of our farms," she informed PAC.
Marathe said that she is confident that by venturing into farming they should be able to provide food for all the inmates and reduce the budget allocated to them. She said they have already started tunnel farming at Moshupa Boys Prison and are now producing vegetables and herbs.
Through farming, Marathe said they should be able to transfer skills to inmates to help them to survive after prison life.
On number of inmates, Marathe said that they have 3882 inmates in all their prisons and 584 foreigners and was quick to add that two inmates have been admitted to maternity wards.
She said that they have 872 remands with 200 being foreigners.
On death row inmates, Marathe revealed that there is no one on death row as the last one was executed last week Friday.
On development funds, Marathe said that the process has been moving at snail pace and most of the projects are on Public Private Partnership.
Prisoners' Cash deposit
Marathe revealed that currently they have P326 000 on Prisoners' Cash deposit which are money belonging to inmates when they are incarcerated and given to them when they are released.