A prevailing high crime rate is fuelling food insecurity in prisons, as the authorities are failing to maintain adequate supplies for inmates.
Currently the country’s reformatory facilities are overcrowded, a development that is also putting pressure on the services available to inmates, including food.
According to an annual police report for 2022, the continues to register high crime cases.
Although the figures are on the higher side, the report revealed a slight drop of 3% occurred last year when 39,335 criminal cases were recorded compared to 40,627 that were logged in 2021.
The police also registered 1,920 rape and defilement cases a 21% decline compared to 2,421 cases recorded in 2021.
There were 8,295 breakings in 2022 compared to 8,651 breakings in 2021 representing a reduction of 4%.
Despite the annual decrease , the number of those being thrown behind high prison walls is still high, hence the food shortage and raising concern among human right activists that are pushing for government’s intervention to address the congestion.
Last year, the Malawi Prisons Service (MPS) acknowledged a shortage of food in the country’s reformatories which they blamed on inconsistent deliveries by contracted suppliers.
The food shortages are however persisting as explained by the MPS spokesperson Chimwemwe Shaba.
“We cannot claim to have enough food until maybe the time of harvest, but we are trying to source food especially form Admarc. We will do in bits and pieces depending on the availability of financial resources so for now we have some food stuffs especially maize in most of the prisons.
About two weeks ago the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) together with the Center for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) inspected Zomba central prison to assess food availability at the facility owing to growing reports on the same.
The authorities reveal that they are putting in an effort to address the challenge in the short term, while they continue to look for long-term solutions to address the issue.
“The main problem is that in terms of our projections, when we procure maize from Admarc, it does not match with the number of inmates in prisons and new admission. It terms the crime is increasing day in day out. So it becomes a problem to have the ratio that it in tandem with the population of prisoners.” Shaba explained.
Meanwhile, President Lazarus Chakwera has pardoned 200 inmates during the Easter Holidays, a move CHREAA Executive Director Victor Mhango has said will assist in addressing congestion in the country’s correctional facilities.
“The number is very small but we understand that the president has reduced the number of sentences of all prisoners. We believe this is a significant change as it will actually reduce the congestion, because we have so many prisoners who are about to finish their sentences.” Said Mhango.