The Prison Inspectorate has expressed concern that government’s failure to comply with a 2009 court order has largely contributed to deteriorating health conditions in prisons.
The Prison Inspectorate, through its chair judge Ken Manda, has said prison conditions in Malawi keep worsening as the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) is on the increase, causing inmates to die unnecessarily.
Manda, who made a presentation at a seminar in Blantyre for judicial officers a week ago, said the current prison conditions in Malawi amounted to torture and degrading treatment.
The judge said in most prisons, inmates are spending their entire sentences sleeping in a sitting position due to lack of space.
He said prisoners can hardly sleep and if anybody needs to go to the toilet during the night, they cannot do so; hence, people are forced to wet or soil themselves.
The judge said the result of inmates spending considerable time in the congested cells is that they often develop boils or lumps that frequently become septic as well as develop tuberculosis, measles, meningitis and other communicable diseases, especially during hot months.
“The spread of such diseases is exacerbated by the fact that prisons in Malawi face serious challenges when it comes to accessing prescription medication, and because there are no fully fledged medical clinics in most prisons.”
He said such challenges, coupled with laxity in taking medicines, have recently led to outbreak of a multi-drug-resistant strain of TB in prisons.
Manda said the risk of transmission to the general population is heightened because of a policy decision has been made that such individuals should be released from prison for fear of spreading the disease to other inmates.
Manda said: “There is an increasing incidence of HIV and Aids in Malawi’s prisons and indicators seem to suggest that most new cases are within the prisons.” n