High Coronavirus risk for Zim Inmates
by Pauline Chateuka
A prison is an enclosed environment where inmates share very limited space. During a time like this where we have a pandemic sweeping across the world, there has never been so much urgency when it comes to relooking at the living conditions in Zimbabwe’s prisons which are well known for their overcrowding and lack of basic amenities.
New inmates are being admitted almost every day and the first question that comes into one’s mind is what monitoring mechanisms has the government put in place for the safety of both new admissions and those already serving their jail terms as well as prison administration officers, not to mention of those being released.
To prevent the spread of Coronavirus, one must practice good hygiene as well as practice social distancing, these measures are difficult to enforce in a prison set-up.
Lockdown measures have made it difficult for most people to fend for themselves since they work in the informal sector or are small business owners. For those who are in jail, it means they are being cut off from their relations who help take care of them by sending them food and other basic supplies whilst they are doing time.
The government recently released 1800 inmates on amnesty, which is very good but our prisons are still congested and something tangible should be done to take care of that problem. En-masse releases pose health risks the risk of potentially releasing violent criminals such as murderers and rapists back into society.
“My heart bleeds for all inmates at a time like this. I can imagine myself when I was behind bars n had not got a visit…There is no food at our Prisons. Inmates are suffering. I’m at a loss of words right now. Ko dai mangovasunungura henyu kana musingagone kuvapa chikafu. And don’t forget we have innocent inmates” says Yvonne Musarurwa an ex-inmate.
Aside from taking care of the prisoner’s basic needs hygiene needs, there is also a very urgent need to educate the inmates on what Coronavirus is and how it is spread. Lastly capacitating prison hospital to handle potential COVID-19 cases.
American prisoners test positive for COVID-19
In the United States of America in Ohio state, CNN reported that over 1,300 inmates are reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 and they are currently looking for solutions to deal with the situation. The Ohio scenario just goes to show that the COVID-19 threat for our prisons as a real as the Coronavirus itself. Zimbabwe’s prisons are not safe from Coronavirus.