Malawi Prisons Inspectorate chairperson Judge Kenan Manda on Monday said over 50 percent of convicts (about 6 000) in the country’s prisons are on unconfirmed sentences.
He said the Judiciary is to blame for delays to confirm their sentences.
Speaking during the opening of a dissemination workshop of the prison monitoring report in Lilongwe, Manda also said prisoners are not slaves and do not cease to be human beings when they are in prisons.
He said: “There is one area where we have not worked well. Out of the 13 000 people we have in our prisons, over 90 percent [about 11 700] of them are persons who have been convicted. Out of the 90 percent, possibly over 50 percent are prisoners [about 5 850] whose sentences have not been confirmed.
“This creates a problem because if a sentence is not confirmed, the law says the person is being held unlawfully. I have raised this with the registrar of the High Court and Chief Justice.”
Manda also said government is yet to fully comply with the Constitutional Court ruling more than three years after it ordered it to improve conditions in the country’s prisons within 18 months.
“The worthiness, dignity and the physical and mental integrity of every human being is the core of human existence and is inalienable. It cannot be taken away,” said Manda.
In November 2009, the Constitutional Court ordered government to meet minimum standards for treatment of prisoners including provision of food, clothing, accessories and cell equipment apart from appropriate accommodation and ventilation after Gable Masangano and other inmates took it to court.
Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) chairperson Sophie Kalinde said while government has improved on prisoners’ access to information, education and legal representation, conditions in the country’s prisons are still worse.
Chief Commissioner of Prisons Kennedy Nkhoma said they have inadequate funding to provide better conditions, livelihood skills and education to all inmates, adding the 13 000 inmates are occupying space designed for 6 000 prisoners.