Consider other punishments, not just sending offenders to jail – Chilukutu

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TO reduce the headache induced on him by the dehumanising congestion situation in prisons, Zambia Correctional Service Commissioner General Fredrick Chilukutu has urged adjudicators to consider alternative punishments for some wrongdoers rather handing everyone custodial sentences.

Chilukutu said the prison population has increased to 25, 372 against the prison correctional holding capacity of 10, 650.

The Prisons Bosd made this call during the ceremonial opening of the Lusaka High Court criminal session for this year themed “Better delivery of justice through improved coordination of Correctional and Judicial Services”.

Chilukutu appealed to the judiciary to make concerted efforts with the Correctional Service to alleviate overcrowding in prisons and correctional centres by prioritising the imposition of non custodial sentences for appropriate offences.

He said adjudicators should give reasonable bail conditions to accused persons facing bailable offences.

Chilukutu said the Judiciary should consider introducing Camp Courts that will provide a speedy disposal of cases.

“Out of that population 5, 101 are remandees, among them pending judgement by the courts of law those with bailable offences, prohibited immigrants and those on continued trial and criminal investigations by arresting agencies,” Chilukutu said.

“This category translates to 20 percent of the total prison population which is critically contributing to overcrowding in the prison and correctional centres. I would like to appeal to the judiciary to adress cases of pending judgements and remandees with bailable offences who are standing at around 1, 500 to help adress congestion.”

He indicated that the Correctional Service has taken President Hakainde Hichilema’s directive in decongesting prisons seriously by expanding open air correctional centres, strengthening collaboration with other players in the criminal justice system.

Chilukutu said on November 9, 2022 the Correctional Service and Ministry of Justice launched the second prison and correctional audit with support from the Germany Federal Ministry Economic Corporation and Development and the European Union under the enabling access to justice civil society participation and transparency program to conduct prison audits.

He said the objective of the audit was to generate practical and evidence based recommendations to adress the changes in the criminal justice system which contribute to overcrowding in correctional centres.

Chilukutu said the Ministry of Home affairs and lnternal Security has prioritised extradition of inmates through bilateral relations.

“In 2022 and 2023 the service has facilitated the transfer of 57 foreign convicted nationals to serve the remainder of their sentences in their countries of origin,” Chilukutu said.

“The service has been served with erratic judgment copies which are a basic requirement for the facilitation for transfer of foreign nationals. The system should be improved to ensure the documents are available on time.”

He added that the Correctional Service will soon introduce electronic inmate monitoring mechanisms for inmates on parole to enhance parole supervision and minimize parolees violation of parole conditions.

“The President has exercised his prerogative of mercy on 7, 225 if we didn’t have this provision in the constitution for the president to exercise mercy, the population in the correctional service should have been standing at over 30, 000,” said Chilukutu.

Session judge Charles Kafunda said the attainment of improved coordination between the Judiciary and Correctional Service will provide effective communication, which will ensure that punishments meted out by the courts of law are correctly implemented by the Correctional Services.

“Ultimately, it is the public which must be the beneficiary by way of enhanced public safety resulting from the reform of offenders and the incarceration of those who cannot be reformed,” judge Kafunda said.

He said fuandamental rights of individuals ought to be safeguarded and in the absence of effective cooperation with the Correctional Service they risk being compromised.

“One critical aspect that demands our immediate attention is the flow of cases in matters where accused persons are unable to meet bail conditions or are not eligible for bail and hence remanded for trial. The risk of losing track of the duration of remandees should be a cause for concern for all levels of courts and criminal justice system actors,” judge Kafunda said.

He advised his colleagues that the challenges faced by the judiciary should not be a deterrent to the provision of decent services.

And High Court judge in charge Charles Zulu said the optimal utilization of correctional services can help in achieving an effective case management system in courts with criminal matters.

“Inmates management system inherently imposes a duty of accountability on adjudicators to take stock of their criminal cases and where there are lapses you (ZCS) remain dependable stake holders to help us ascertain the status quo,” said judge Zulu.

“We (Judiciary) will harness beneficial results for the inmates.”

By Mwaka Ndawa

Kalemba January 9, 2023.

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