Mzuzu Prison inmates will soon live comfortably following construction of new structures, which will expand cells’ capacity by 250 percent from about 200 to 700, authorities have confirmed.
The prison holds over 450 prisoners of whom more than 60 are juveniles. The British colonial government built the facility in the early 1960s and it was meant to hold 50 prisoners.
During interviews, inmates said the prison is so overcrowded that it is hard to find space to lie on for sleep.
One prisoner said the issue of space also leads to conflicts as inmates try to scramble for the little space available.
But in an interview on Thursday, Northern Region Prisons spokesperson Austin Mwasangwale said congestion will soon be history at the facility.
He said Mzuzu Prison now has four cells. The cells were funded by well-wishers and government.
Mwasangwale confirmed that the prison, which had a holding capacity of about 200, sometimes accommodates over 600 inmates.
He, however, said following construction of the new cells, there will now be enough space for 700 inmates.
“When the rooms are overcrowded, the health of the inmates is at risk. They can easily get diseases. Apart from affecting the inmates, such scenarios also put government resources under pressure because the prisoners will need treatment,” he explained.
Mwasangawale added that there is another structure under construction and when completed the prison will accommodate 800 inmates.
Youth Watch executive director Mteyu Banda, whose organisation has a programme in Mzuzu City that looks into the welfare of inmates, said the current situation at the prison is encouraging.
However, he called on the department not to take advantage of space to transfer inmates from other prisons to Mzuzu Prison.