Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi has commended Malawi Prison Service for embracing reforms that are expected to change the institution’s focus from punishment to reformation and correction.
Among the reforms, the service is working on introducing a parole system that will see prisoners being released before the expiry of their sentence on promise of good behaviour.
This, according to Dausi, will help in promoting good behaviour among prisoners as well as reduce congestion in prisons.
Speaking in Blantyre on Monday after opening a nine-day training for prison officers, the minister pledged to support the initiative by, among others, dealing with challenges facing the prison service.
He encouraged the officers to diligently discharge their duties, adding that “prison officers are no lesser security personnel”.
Initially, prison facilities were built for security and punishment of lawbreakers.
Chief Commissioner of Prison Services Wandika Phiri said the correctional approaches being adopted include the amendment of prisoners records to conform with the Mandela Rules, the review of prisons function, adoption of the three-phase intervention model for managing health in prisons and the intensification of rehabilitation programmes.
“The Malawi Prison Service is mandated to provide for safe custody, humane treatment and rehabilitation to offenders so that they successfully re-enter society as productive citizens after release from prison. However, for this mandate to be realised, there is need for a greater paradigm shift in focus from punitive to rehabilitation,” said Phiri.
After the course, the trained officers will orient other officers on the concepts learnt.
Officers from the Zambia Correctional Service, one of the African countries implementing correctional services, are attending the training to share their experiences and best practices.
According to Malawi Prison Service legal officer Bazirial Chapuwala, the parole system will be implemented immediately after the Prison Bill is passed in Parliament.
He said: “We are at an advanced stage. The Prison Bill has already incorporated the parole system and the moment it is passed, we will start implementing the system,”.