THE recently held annual Manicaland Prisons Family Week that ran from 28 September to October 4 was this year not open for outsiders because of coronavirus. However, it was not all doom and gloom as the usual fun and pomp was allowed for all the inmates in the five prisons in the province, namely Mutare Remand Prison (MRP), Mutare Farm Prison (MFP), Rusape prison, Little Kraal in Nyazura and Chipinge Prison. A disco was set up and the inmates enjoyed a musical fiesta.
As part of the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) rehabilitation programmes, the Family Week helps to reintegrate inmates with people outside and allows family and friends to visit and encourage their loved ones serving time in prison. This is inline with the United Nations (UN) Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of prisoners, better known as the Mandela Rules, named in honour of the legacy of the late President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison for standing up against the apartheid system.
The revised rules were adopted by the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna, Austria on 22 May 2015. One of the principle rules states that, “No prisoner shall be subjected to, and all prisoners shall be protected from, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, for which no circumstances whatsoever may be invoked as a justification.” Whilst Zimbabwe prisons have in the past been bombarded for gross human rights violations, standards seem to be improving. Although inmates are still poorly fed, they are given three meals a day, whilst clothing all inmates remains a challenge in the usually overpopulated prisons countrywide.
However, it is not all doom and gloom as the Family Week open days really show the other side of prison life and efforts being made by ZPCS to ensure the fundamental rights of inmates are met, which means operating prisons as correctional centres, and not centres of incarceration. Below is the Family Week in pictures and videos, showing how some inmates are fairing at Mutare Remand Prison and Mutare Farm Prison.