It is arguable that the Prisoner Re-integration and Empowerment Organisation (PREO) executive director Derrick Malumo should appeal to President Edgar Lungu to take keen interest in issues surrounding the reintegration of ex-prisoners by creating a department in either ministry of home affairs or community development (Daily Nation September 7, 2015).
While it’s sadly no secret that in today’s age, convicts in many Zambian societies are forced into some of the most deplorable situations when they’re released or pardoned from prisons.
These ex-convicts and their immediate needy families are exposed to obnoxious societal practices and unpardonable stigma…they are ostracized from the community, denied any rights to their former property, and their children can also be denied education.
As a result, you’ll find the people who leave prison today are back in prison tomorrow because they have not been reintegrated properly by means of empowering them.
However, I genuinely believe it’s time to put the PREO in its rightful place by suggesting that it embarks on education programmes that must help an individual ex-convict to acquire the requisite knowledge to solve societal problems, especially to meet the day-to-day issues of the immediate community.
That is why informal vocational education, which looks at developing employable skills and provides opportunities for the marginalized and neglected individuals in our society, like ex-convicts, who do not have formal education, is so important, to create some form of economic freedom and empowerment.
Needless to say, the PREO executive director must also look at the possibility of utilizing the vast arable land resources in Zambia to engage ex-prisoners in sustainable agriculture.
Probably, a four-fold strategy could be considered, comprising: acquisition of land in key selected agricultural communities; establishing training on sustainable farming practices for the ex-convicts; the organization of ex-convicts to commence small-scale farming initiatives; and the establishment of grocery stores to market and sell the produce from the PREO farms.
Undoubtedly, education through advocacy and the provision of employable skills, are the best long-term solution to problems that have plagued Zambian ex-prisoners for a long time.
Knowing that through PREO programmes these ex-convicts can have their own source of income, removing the syndrome of being dependent on other people’s hand-outs, could be quite uplifting.