Women prisoners need community support

By Pamela Moyo

The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services has called for women’s organisations to participate in empowering imprisoned women.

In an interview at the ZPCS stand at the just ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo, the national spokesperson, Chief Correctional Officer Meya Khanyezi said most women's organisations sideline female inmates and focus on those who are outside prisons.

“We call upon women's organisations like Msasa Project and others to revisit their policies and set aside time and resources to empower female inmates. Committing crimes doesn’t make them immune to problems that every woman faces in life,” she said.

Chief Correctional Officer Khanyezi said the majority of women behind bars were victims of gender based violence (GBV) hence the need for them to be involved in all anti GBV campaigns.

“When organisations are marching against GBV and empowering women, they should have an inmate in mind. It’s better that they also visit female inmates and hold conferences with them so that upon release they will be empowered,” she said.

Chief Correctional Officer Khanyezi said ZPCS observed that during family week where relatives and friends were given a chance to visit inmates, female inmates had fewer visits compared to their male counterparts.

She said women's organisations were expected to bridge the gap and act as a family to women in prison.

“We call upon these organisations to prioritise visiting prisons during family week. They should have time to sit down with female inmates, get to know them and share information that every woman would need,” she said.

She added that being visited gave women closure and hope which speeds up the rehabilitation process.

“The aim of imprisonment is not to punish or deny inmates of their rights but to rehabilitate them in preparation for release. Rehabilitation also includes letting female inmates mingle with their counterparts who are not behind bars and even getting updates of what happens,” she said.

Chief Correctional Officer Khanyezi said women’s organisations could learn from churches who frequently visit prisons.