The Norwergian government has launched a four-year K2.6 billion prison reform project amid concerns of poor conditions in Malawi prisons.
Norwegian Ambassador Kikkan Haugen launched the project on Monday in Lilongwe, saying it is aimed at addressing the challenges in prison management, improved prison health delivery and management, and improved criminal justice processes with a target to reduce prison population.
The ambassador said Malawi prisons challenges are worsened by poor justice delivery that leads to congestion and poor infrastructure, including that the buildings are old.
Said Haugen: “The prison as an institution is not meant for abuse and suffering; more so, not for loss of life because these are not part of any sentence meted out in a court of law which recognises human rights.”
While Norway is financing the project, it will be managed by United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The project will also ensure the screening and treatment of inmates for malnutrition, tuberculosis and other acute health conditions. There will also be increased access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
Added Haugen: “Prisoners will be assessed for eligibility for amnesty, compassionate release and sentence review or commutation. There will also be urgent repairs and upgrading of infrastructure. Prison inspectorate will have to be strengthened.”
In her remarks, Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Cecilia Chazama acknowledged that the country’s prisons continue to be congested owing to their small sizes as they were constructed way back and are in need of renovation and upgrading.
She said prison health and other related issues need to be taken care of because apart from the rights of the inmates, they impact on the society.
Said Chazama: “Prison health has serious implications on the community because after the inmates serve their sentence they go back to their respective communities where they are expected to re-integrate and whatever they were exposed to can be spread into the community.”
UNODC Southern Region representative Zhuldly Akisheva said Malawi is no exception from other African countries where most prison infrastructure is over 80 years old, leading to congestion of prisoners and poor health management. n