ZPCS Bill: Rehabilitation and Re-integration system key

The Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on the Alignment of Legislation to the Constitution (IMT) with financial support from the European Union (EU) and technical support from the Centre for Applied Legal Research (CALR) held a write-shop in Mutare on the alignment of the Prisons Act to the Constitution from the 18th -19th of December 2019.

Since the current Prison Act was last revised in 1996, before the promulgation of the 2013 Constitution, it became pertinent to revisit the Act so as to bring it in line with the Constitution. some provisions of the current Prisons Act have been overridden by the coming in of the new Zimbabwe Constitution in 2013. Further, several regional and global trends have emerged over the past decade which necessitate the need to refine the Prisons Act. When passed into law, the piece of legislation will be termed the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service Act as provided in the Constitution.

The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services Bill write-shop comes after the IMT conducted research and stakeholder consultations in the Northern and Southern region of the country to gather views and recommendations on what the Bill should contain. The write-shop is a drafting workshop for purposes of reviewing the draft bill and a platform for key stakeholders to further input their views into the draft bill before its finalized and sent to the relevant ministry.

The write-shop was attended by several stakeholders such as representatives from Zimbabwe NGO Forum, Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (ZACRO), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and members of the media.

The ZPCS draft bill is centred on having a correctional services system and to move away from the previous punitive prison system. Human rights as enshrined in the Constitution will always be reflected in the new law .The bill has been refined and also places community participation as central too in the re-integration of offenders. It will also establish community correctional centres and rehabilitation facilities to help offenders to be rehabilitated and reintegrated with their communities. The Bill also introduces a parole system.

The bill seek to balance concerns about security, safety and human rights of  offenders in prison and correctional facilities. Further, the Bill sets out functions of the ZPCS, powers of the Commissioner General of Prisons and Correctional Service, operations of the Commission, recruitment, promotion and removal from service of correctional officers. It is important that the Bill requires correctional officers to act in a non-partisan manner, act professionally and respect and uphold the fundamental rights of every person.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the ZPCS Bill write-shop, the Director for Legislative Drafting Division in the Attorney General’s Office, Mr Mukaratirwa said that, “stakeholders are assessing provisions in the draft bill , the Attorney General’s drafting department will then finalise and polish up the bill taking note of stakeholders input,”. The draft bill will be sent to the ministry responsible for the administration of the Prisons Act, which is the MoJLPA. If the ministry responsible is satisfied with the adjustments to the draft bill in line with principles agreed by Cabinet, they take the bill for approval to Cabinet and if approved the Bill will be tabled before parliament.