The mixing of young and adult prisoners is still taking place in some prisons across the country despite government making efforts to stop the malpractice, Weekend Nation has learnt.
A latest Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) prison monitoring report released this week shows that prison authorities are not adhering to United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which provide for appropriate classification of inmates in prisons.
“The commission observed the lack of separation of prisoners in terms of age, remandees and convicts, civil prisoners and criminal prisoners, young prisoners and adults; healthy prisoners and those with contagious ailments in most prisons.
“The commission established that Mzimba and Mulanje prisons have separate cells for young offenders [between 18 and 22 years], whereas inmates at Dedza, Ntcheu, Nkhotakota and Mangochi prisons are mixed regardless of age and criminal records, due to lack of adequate cells and overcrowding, ” reads MHRC’s report in part.
The commission says the juvenile system seeks to place juveniles in separate facilities to protect them from being influenced by adult convicts to become hardened criminals.
“The mixing of juveniles and adults in adult jails is considered unjust and remains a problem worldwide. The commission observed that some prisons comply with the rule of separation while others are not able due to limited space.
“In some prisons, officials denied the presence of young offenders; however, they were contradicted by responses from interviewed prisoners who confirmed the presence of young offenders in the prisons,” says the commission.
MHRC has also expressed concern about continued mixing of convicts and suspects on remand in the country’s prison, saying the practice also violates minimum standards for detention of suspects on remand.
Chief commissioner of Prisons Kennedy Nkhoma said they are failing to comply with international standards for detention of prisoners because of lack of resources and overcrowding of prisoners.