A FORTNIGHT ago President Emmerson Mnangagwa passed an amnesty for the release of more than 5 000 prisoners of non-violent crimes in order to decongest Zimbabwe’s crowded prisons.
On Wednesday, the Zimbabwe Prisons Correctional Services (ZPCS) appealed to Parliament so the amnesty could be sped up due to the COVID 19 outbreak.
However, the government should also be concerned with how the soon-to-be ex-inmates would adjust to the society after exposure to jail life.
Is the government preparing the prisoners psychologically to rejoin society?
Are there any measures put in place to prepare the families receiving the prisoners?
The moment a person experiences prison life, their mental state and way of reasoning changes so there is need for them to receive psychological therapy to prepare them for the outside world and how to adapt to societal changes since some of them would have served long sentences.
Prisoners cannot be released into the society because not all families will accept them, so measures should be put in place so that relevant people can also do some counseling to the concerned families and make sure they will accept their relatives back.
In the same way that prison officers are teaching them about the coronavirus, so also should they make sure they are mentally fit to go into the world.
There should be screening of prisoners ahead of the Amnesty to check if these prisoners are ready to go into the world in order to avoid repeat offenders.
There always has been a general fear and mistrust on ex- inmates by the society for fear they could repeat crimes.
Most ex- convicts are stigmatised by the society, which usually makes them to repeat crimes with the thought that prison is were they belong.
Some prisoners are sent to jail because of false accusations so upon release, they may plan on revenging on the people who framed them, which may be a disaster for both parties.
In the recent past, a member of the Prison Fellowship Sekai Mandiyanike, an organisation that supports people in prison, former prisoners and their families, noted that amnesties mean well but critiqued the criteria used for the release of prisoners, saying clemency should be meant for those prisoners who have changed their ways.
“There should be assessment on individual basis to determine whether people have repented,” she said.