The parole system will now allow every prisoner to apply for early release regardless of the nature of sentence they are serving and the prison system will now cater for the needs of pregnant women, juvenile offenders and persons with disabilities.
Currently only female prisoners, juveniles under the age of 18 years, prisoners serving 36 months and below, and all prisoners aged 60 and above, except those convicted of specified offences, qualify to benefit from parole.
In her post-Cabinet briefing yesterday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Cabinet approved the Prisons and Correctional Services Bill 2022, which also provides for, among other things, the establishment of correctional community centres throughout the country, which will essentially be open prisons.
These centres will also ensure decongestion of prisons as certain prisoners will be released from standard prisons to reside in such community centres.
They will also serve the purpose of easing the transition of inmates from incarceration life to community life.
“Cabinet considered and approved the Prisons and Correctional Services Bill 2022 as presented by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Honourable Ziyambi Ziyambi as chairperson of the Cabinet Committee on Legislation.
Cabinet advises that the parole system will be broadened to provide for the eligibility of every prisoner to apply for parole regardless of the nature of the sentences they are serving,” she said.
The Prisons and Correctional Services Bill 2022 seeks to modernise the prisons legislation with a view to ensuring that it meets international norms and standards regarding prisons administration, including the way prisoners are treated.
“This includes focusing on restorative justice through rehabilitation rather than incarceration of offenders.
The Prisons and Correctional Services Act will ensure that the prison system caters for the needs of the vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, juvenile offenders as well as persons with disabilities and other special categories in society that have special needs,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
She said the legislation further seeks to promote community involvement in the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional
Service (ZPCS) in order to ensure that prisoners will not face difficulties and hostilities being accepted back into communities and within their families.
“The Prisons and Correctional Service Act will extend an inmate’s right to consult with a medical practitioner of their choice at their own expense.
In tandem with the Constitution, the legislation affords inmates access to their lawyers before and during their trials,” she said.
The Minister said Cabinet also approved the Principles of the Witness Protection Bill 2022.
The Witness Protection Bill seeks to fill the gap in the law by establishing legislation to provide for witness protection in Zimbabwe.
The absence of adequate witness protection mechanisms has resulted in the police taking the responsibility of protecting witnesses.
“Cabinet reports that the purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment of an office that caters for the protection and placement of witnesses under temporary, interim and permanent protection.
The Bill seeks to regulate the powers, functions and duties of the office,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
“Furthermore, the Bill will establish the necessary procedures and measures on how witnesses are put into the witness protection programme.”-Chronicle