Norwegian Ambassador Kikkan Haugen has called for the need to reduce population of inmates at Maula Prison in Lilongwe and an upgrade of living standards.
Currently, the prison has a population of about 2 600 inmates against its recommended capacity of 800.
Haugen, speaking after touring some of the projects at the prison done by the Centre for Legal Assistance (Cela) and funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, has since said this is a human rights issue requiring immediate address.
He said: “We have seen that instead of 800 inmates which this prison was designed for, there are 2 600 prisoners here at Maula Prison. Obviously, that is not a satisfactory condition. Something needs to be done.”
Chief commissioner for Malawi Prison Services, Kennedy Nkhoma, pushed blame for the congestion on the country’s justice delivery system which rushes to give prison sentence to all convicts.
He said there is need for the courts to consider giving some convicts community sentences to reduce congestion in the country’s prison cells.
Said Nkhoma: “As a justice system, let us not believe in always whipping people into line with custodial sentences. Let us give alternative sentences to imprisonment such as where people can serve right in their communities.”
Cela has built prison cells for both male and female sections, a sickbay for both male and female sections and also water storage tanks with a capacity of 10 000 litres.
Cela board chairperson Jesse Mlotha-Namarika said her organisation seeks to improve life in prisons by constructing prison cells, clean water storage tanks, sickbays and girls reformatory centres.
Cela also offers free legal services, conducts legal clinics, facilitates stakeholders’ meetings, provides drugs and disinfectants and conducts awareness campaigns among prisoners.
During the visit, it was also noted that there are many foreign nationals committed to Maula Prison and, according to Nkhoma, those people are from other African countries such as Ethiopia who find themselves on the wrong side of the law.