Government must set up juvenile jails: LRF

612

THE Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) has approached the High Court seeking an order to compel the government to set up separate prisons exclusively for juveniles.
At the moment, young offenders have to share facilities with adult inmates, who were allegedly sexually and physically abusing the minors, according to the LRF’s court application. Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi,
Prisons Commissioner-General Moses Chihobvu and AttorneyGeneral Prince Machaya were cited
as respondents.

The LRF also seeks an order for Ziyambi to introduce a Bill in Parliament that addresses the inconsistency of Section 63 of the Prisons Act which defines children below, 19, as young prisoners.

In an affidavit, LRF executive director Lucia Zanhi is arguing that it is in the interests of parents, guardians
and the public that juvenile offenders continue to be treated as children within that system.

She argued that this entailed separation of children from adults at all stages and that they are treated
in a manner distinct from adults that allows them to rehabilitate.

The court heard some of the children who have been previously represented by LRF have privately narrated their ordeal when mixed with adults while in custody.

The ordeals include physical and sexual abuse which were not reported or investigated for fear of further victimisation.

“The prison system is largely a secretive place and those that have experienced it normally want to forget the experience as quickly as possible and move on.

“It is unlikely that a juvenile would ever legally challenge the incarceration whether in custody or out of custody. This then allows the perpetuation of that system in spite of its illegalities,” Zanhi said.

The court heard Zimbabwe has 46 prisons and almost all of them do not have dedicated facilities for
juveniles.

LRF submitted that only Whawha Prison in Midlands was set aside to be a facility for juveniles, particularly
those sentenced to imprisonment.

“It being the only facility creates various problems which include having to remove children from areas where their families are close by and taking them to this prison facility which creates visiting problems where the families are not resident in that vicinity.

“The children are not transferred immediately after conviction and there are logistical challenges that result in long delays before relocation of the young offender.

“The delays also mean that the young offender is further detained in an adult prison until such a time he is
transferred.

“Section 81 of the Constitution requires that where children are detained in custody, they must be kept in conditions that take into account their age. All the prison facilities in Zimbabwe are designed for adults.

These facilities were built before independence and none of them catered for juvenile offenders. They
still do not,” Zanhi argued. The court is yet to set the date for hearing of the case.

Comments are closed.