The prisoner and warder ratio in Zambia is extremely high and is negatively impacting on inmates, says Zambia Prisons Service public relations officer Doreen Ngoma.
Ms Ngoma said the warder to prisoner ratio was high but government was recruiting more officers and was hopeful that this would be resolved in due course.
“We have over 17,000 prisoners against an establishment of about 1,800 officers and part of these officers are in administration, so the ratio is indeed not so good but as you may observe government has been recruiting vigorously,” she said.
Prison authorities and government were addressing the problem by constructing more prisons and calling for optional sentencing.
This came to light during a media dinner hosted for Kabwe based journalists on Friday at Kabwe Lodge by the Zambia Prisons Service.
At the dinner, The Zambia Prisons Service Public Relations officer Doreen Ngoma praised the media for role it played in covering matters affecting the organisation and has pledged to continue working in partnership, with them.
“We have over 17,000 prisoners against an establishment of about 1,800 officers and part of these officers are in administration, so the ratio is indeed not so good but as you may observe government has been vigorously recruiting,” said the PRO.
Ms Ngoma told journalists from the Daily Nation, KNC radio, Radio Maranatha and ZANIS that her unit valued the role played by the media especially in the coverage of the recapture of the two condemned prisoners who had escaped from Mukobeko Maximum Prison.
“Our department really appreciates your role. We may have shortfalls but we know you understand that we are a security wing so it is not just everything that we may be releasing to the media at every time until we assess the security impact,” said Ms Ngoma.
And Ms Ngoma gave a brief outline of the institution with regard to custodial, correctional and rehabilitation of inmates to make them better citizens when they were released.
She bemoaned the congestion in prisons which she attributed to poor and inadequate infrastructure but stressed that both her institution and the government were addressing the challenge by building and expanding prisons.
“Some of the congestion problems are being addressed through presidential pardons, parole and non custodial sentencing on which we have to work hand in hand with the judiciary but we would also like to see some offenders being punished by community sentencing as opposed to custodial,” she said.
And in response to Ms Ngoma’s address, the media personnel hailed the prison authorities for the initiative and were hopeful that the department will take an active role in the soon to be revived Kabwe Press Club as a way of being drawn closer to the community.