Ceremonial Vice President Guy Scott says he has learnt with deep shock the excessive overcrowding and harsh conditions that prisoners at Mukobeko Maximum prisons are subjected to despite the country being a signatory of the United Nations convention on human rights.
Scott said he was shocked to learn that the prison which only has the capacity of 7, 500 inmates is holding about 16, 500 inmates most of whom are waiting for their cases to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
Scott described the condition at the prison as hell on earth and promised that his government will not allow the situation to continue any further.
He said all human beings have rights which cannot be taken away from them even when they are incarcerated in prisons.
ZANIS reports that speaking after he toured the male condemned section of the Mukobeko Maximum Prison where 292 prisoners on death sentences are sharing 48 rooms, Scott ordered the inmates to demonstrate how they sleep.
It was discovered that a room meant for one inmate which has no bed, windows or toilet now accommodates a minimum of 6 inmates a situation the vice president described as inhuman and an abrogation of human rights.
He said the Patriotic Front Government will not allow any of its citizens regardless of their status to be subjected to inhuman conditions adding that government will ensure that all prison facilities countrywide are improved to habitable state.
The vice President also promised to reduce the congestion by ensuring that inmates are quickly rehabilitated and reintegrated into society and also by ensuring that cases are expeditiously disposed off.
Earlier, Commissioner of Prisons Percy Chato told the vice president that the prison commission is faced with challenges that range from staff accommodation, lack of operational vehicles, dilapidated infrastructure and understaffing.
He also disclosed that the commission has a debt of about K58.7 billion accumulated from water, telephone and electricity bill plus food stuffs and requires to be settled.
Meanwhile a Catholic priest who has been working closely with inmates for over 20 years pleaded with government never to execute prisoners who have been sentenced to death.
Father Benard Bohan of Bwacha Parish in Kabwe begged the vice president to plead with the President to exercise lenience on prisoners and give them a second chance adding that execution is never the best way of punishing law breakers.
He said government should look for other punitive ways of dealing with law breakers other than killing.
He narrated how he witnessed the execution of 8 inmates in 1997 which he said should never happen in a Christian country.
And inmates at Mukobeko Maximum prisons today almost made the Vice President and his entourage shed tears after they unreservedly got down on their knees to apologise to the President and the people of Zambia for breaking the law knowingly and unknowingly.
After they presented the challenges they were facing while in prison, inmates were taken by emotions as their representative explained how they are alleged to have been denied justice by not having the cases of some inmates heard.
They yelled in front of the vice president like it was a funeral house as their representative asked government to consider pardoning some of the inmates most of whom he said have reformed and would never repeat committing crimes after going through what he called hell.
Their representative, who could not be identified for security reasons stated that the case records of 45 inmates who are on death row have been lost by the judiciary while 24 were still waiting for their appeal cases to be head by the Supreme Court.
He wondered how the court could be so negligent that case records of inmates who are hoping to be cleared are lost while others are kept on death row without their cases being heard by the Supreme Court.
But the situation at Mukobeko Maximum prison for female inmates is a total opposite of the male facilities as there are only 52 inmates being looked after by 41 officers.
Out of the 52 inmates, 5 are on death sentence and the majority were convicted for murdering their husbands and drug trafficking.
They , however, complained that government was more concerned with male inmates than them.
The Vice President was accompanied to Mukobeko by Home Affairs Minister Kennedy Sakeni and was received by Central Province Minister Philip Kosamu and other senior government officials.