Thousands of prisoners set to get freedom

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PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday gazetted conditions of a presidential pardon that is meant to benefit thousands of prisoners across the country as government moves to decongest prisons.

This comes after Cabinet recently approved a proposal to have a general amnesty to decongest the country’s prisons, which currently house 22 000 prisoners against a carrying capacity of 17 000.

This also comes at a time when Zimbabwe prisons have been calling on government to speed up the amnesty amid coronavirus spread fears, given the overpopulation of the country’s jails.

In an amnesty notice published in the Government Gazette under General Notice 673 of 2020, Mnangagagwa pardoned the prisoners in terms of section 112(1)(a) and (d) of the Constitution.

“This order may be cited as the Clemency Order No. 1 of 2020. Full remission of the remaining period of imprisonment is hereby granted to all female prisoners, save for those convicted of specified offences. The inmate should have served at least half of her sentence,” Mnangagwa said.

Specified offences, according to the gazette, include murder, treason, rape or any sexual offence, carjacking, robbery, stock theft, public violence, any conspiracy, incitement or attempt to commit any of these offences or being an accessory after the fact to any of the aforementioned offences.

In addition to pardoning all female prisoners except those with specified offences, Mnangagwa also pardoned all juvenile prisoners under the age of 18 who have served a third of their sentence, except for those convicted of specified offences.

The pardon also extends to prisoners who have been bed-ridden for a prolonged period without recovery upon certification by a correctional medical officer or a government medical officer, all prisoners serving a term of imprisonment at the Open Prison, regardless of offences committed as well as all prisoners aged 70 and above, who have served half of their sentence by the date of gazetting of the amnesty, save for those convicted of specified offences.

Mnangagwa further pardoned all prisoners who have served life imprisonment for at least 25 years, which includes prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment, prisoners whose sentences were commuted from death to life imprisonment and prisoners whose sentences were altered to life imprisonment on appeal or review.

The 25-year period, according to the terms of the pardon, shall include any period spent under the sentence of death.

He further converted death sentences to life imprisonment for all prisoners who have been on the death row for at least 10 years, while also granting a quarter remission to prisoners who are serving an effective period of imprisonment of more than 36 months who have served a third of their remaining sentence.

The pardon however, excludes prisoners who were previously released on amnesty, those serving a sentence imposed by a Court Martial, have record of escaping from lawful custody and those who were convicted of committing any specified offence.

Meanwhile, founder of the Female Prisoners Support Trust Rita Nyampinga has called upon the government to do mandatory testing for all new prisoners to curb the outbreak and spread of the deadly virus in the country’s prisons.

According to ZPCS public relations officer Khanyezi Meya said some of the correctional officers recently underwent training on the pandemic and are expected to train other officers throughout the country with information cascading to inmates, prison communities and surrounding areas.

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