Thandeka Moyo, Chronicle Reporter
PROPOSED amendments to the Prisons Act will see every offender, including murderers, armed robbers and rapists qualifying for parole.
Parole is the release of a prisoner temporarily (for a special purpose) or permanently before the completion of a sentence, on the promise of good behaviour.
It is premised on the assumption that a prisoner has reformed while under incarceration and is ready to be re-integrated into society.
In an interview, the permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabhiza said Government was working on improving conditions of service at all Zimbabwean Prisons.
“We are here to discuss Constitutional provisions and parole that it will be available to all inmates irrespective of the sentence for which they are in prison.
That is quite progressive because when you go to prison there is still hope that that you can be on parole,” said Mrs Mabhiza.
“When inmates come out they will be equipped with skills offered by the ZPCS depending on their capabilities and passions and they can then use the skills to give back to the community.”
She said Government was borrowing from best practices from other countries whose services are commendable.
“We are also going to give attention to conditions of service. There are so many progressive clauses envisioned in the bill. It’s also going to touch on the inmates themselves, women and their dietary needs, gender considerations, women with children in prison, expecting women facilities,” said Mrs Mabhiza.
Mr Tanaka Muganyi from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights says introducing parole for all offenders will not cause any danger to citizens.
“We will be safe as long as monitoring mechanisms are put in place and as long as the parole board is competent and impartial,” said Mr Muganyi.
“Parole is quite a good thing because when one has reformed genuinely then they deserve freedom. The danger is the fake reformist who will deceive the authority granting parole.”
Ms Zibusiso Blessings Dube, a gender activist was wary of the proposal.
“It might be good news for those who would have genuinely reformed as they can carry on with life after paying their debt to society.
“However, it would appear to negate the recent cabinet decision to increase jail sentences for rapists to 60 years. A rapist may be eligible for parole after a few years and return to torment the victim. I think parole beneficiaries should be put under tight supervision for years after their release,” said Ms Dube. – @thamamoe