PRESIDENT John Magufuli has won accolades for masterminding extra-ordinary socioeconomic reforms, including his honest remarks on the state of prisons in the country.
President Magufuli pardoned more than 5,533 prisoners when the country marked the 58th independence anniversary at the CCM Kirumba Stadium.
“I am not comfortable to lead a nation of prisoners,” he told his audience, ordering relevant authorities to start releasing the pardoned prisoners the following day. Most prisoners were serving jail terms over minor offences such as chicken theft, using abusive language against others, failure to hire good advocates and failure to pay fines.
Beneficiaries include prisoners serving jail terms between one day and one year as well as those sentenced to serve many years but had no more than one year left to complete their prison terms. The President warned the pardoned inmates against committing crime as that would land them in jail again.
Kagera Regional Commissioner Marco Gaguti appealed to prisoners who were serving their sentences but benefited from the presidential amnesty to be good citizens and utilize the expertise they acquired to be self- reliant.
“We expect you to be good citizens and exemplary. Work hard and show respect to your leaders,” he said while addressing 210 prisoners who were pardoned at Kitengule prison. About 713 prisoners in Kagera Region benefited from the presidential pardon.
Fortyfive- year-old Elias Tizirukwa, one of the released prisoners, speaking on behalf of other inmates praised President Magufuli and promised to be a good citizen, given the hardships they underwent in incarceration.
“We are repentant and thank Dr Magufuli for his mercy. May God bless him,” he said, as he hurriedly collected his belongings before boarding a bus for his home village in Biharamulo District. Kagera Regional Prisons Officer Raymond Mwampashe said it was pleasing that the government was looking into the possibility of building new prisons and court buildings in the country.
Also, steps were being taken to employ more judges and magistrates. The upshot, the government says, is to de-congest some of the most populated penitentiaries.
The Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG) Chairman Judge Mathew Maimu noted that President Magufuli’s remarks showed his personal intent and of his government in protecting the rights of inmates and remandees in the country’s jails.
The Commission believes that the institutions in charge of criminal investigation, prosecution, and courts will now do their job at high speed to avoid remandees staying in jail for a long time. The Commission commended the president for his decision that mirrored his love for his people.
The magnitude of the problem of congestion in prisons became apparent to the Law Reform Commission of Tanzania (LRCT), when in mid 1986 a random survey was made in five prisons in the country, namely Keko in Dar es Salaam, Musoma, Tarime, Manyoni and Singida which had a total capacity of 893 prisoners only, but were at that time found to be holding 1,934 prisoners.
The Commission made several recommendations to the government, including the construction of new prisons in proportion to administrative areas, with priority given to areas with high crime rates, while existing prisons are rehabilitated with a view to making them modern and spacious.
Prison overcrowding can lead to less careful classification, monitoring and managing of inmates with psychological problems or who otherwise pose a threat of violence to other inmates. Basically, overcrowded and poorly regulated prisons tend to have higher rates of rape and sexual violence.
The adverse effects of overcrowding appear to be magnified for younger inmates, perhaps because of their increased volatility and sensitivity to their surroundings. Overcrowding also often means fewer resources available to each inmate, which can increase uncertainty, frustration, and conflict with other inmates.
Indeed, life in Tanzanian prisons is not a bed of roses. A survey carried out a few years ago showed that some prisons housed too many convicts. For instance, the Dodoma central prison at Isanga, whose official capacity is 784 inmates had 1,338.
Individuals are sentenced to a period of imprisonment following a process which involves investigation of an offence and detection, prosecution, trial, conviction and finally, sentence. The essence of imprisonment is deprivation of one of the most cherished features of human life, individual liberty.
In those countries which have abolished the death penalty and corporal punishment, imprisonment becomes the most severe sanction which the court can impose on a convicted offender. Prisons may be categorized as public and private prisons.
Basically, public prisons are incarceration facilities owned, run and funded by the government, while private prisons are facilities owned and run by private individuals (privatised prisons) but under the aegis of the government.
Other categories include; military prisons and civilian prisons; prison hospitals like Mirembe Hospital, and Isanga Prison Hospital in Dodoma and rehabilitation centres; women’s prisons and men’s prisons; and adult prisons and youth detention facilities.
The word prisoners refers to all persons legally held in prison custody whether convicted or not. These include remand prisoners which means unconvicted persons who must be produced before a court of law within a period of 24 hours of such arrest.
No such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of the court, otherwise a writ of habeas corpus may be issued against the detaining authority. Convicts include any convicted persons under sentence of court, a court martial or a special tribunal and those detained in prison under Section 57 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Civil prisoners include a debtor, any person ordered to be detained in custody under the provisions of the Mental Disease Ordinance or a detainee under the Preventative Detention Act, 1962. Prisonersof- war… these are persons, whether combatants or noncombatants, held in custody by a belligerent power during or immediately after an armed conflict.
First, prisons were used in connection with the Atlantic Slave Trade. Second, Southern African nations began to rely upon imprisonment much earlier than the rest of the continent, in some cases as early as the beginning of the 19th century.
Even when the colonial powers arrived in Europe, they utilised imprisonment not as a means by which to punish the commission of common crimes but rather to control and exploit potentially rebellious local populations.
Africa’s earliest experience with formal prisons was not with an eye toward the rehabilitation or reintegration of criminals but rather the economic, political and social subjugation of indigenous peoples. It was in these early prisons that even minor offenders were subjected to brutal confinement and conscripted as sources of cheap labour.