Zimbabwe pardons 2,000 inmates to ease jail congestion

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Harare, May 26 (IANS) Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has pardoned more than 2,000 jail inmates, mostly women and juveniles, in a move aimed at decongesting the country’s overcrowded prisons, the media reported on Thursday.

Following the presidential pardon, nearly all female prisoners throughout the country were freed except two females serving life sentence, Xinhua news agency reported.

Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service public relations officer Priscilla Mthembo was quoted by the state-run Herald newspaper as saying that the presidential pardon, gazetted this week, would help decongest the country’s overpopulated prisons.

The presidential pardon benefited all juveniles, all prisoners with life sentences convicted on or before December 25, 1995 and all prisoners sentenced to 36 months and below if they had served a quarter of their sentences.

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All terminally ill inmates serving long sentences and those above 60 years who had served two thirds of their sentences were also freed.

Prisoners at Connemara Open Prison, around 200 from Harare, were freed as well as those convicted of stock theft.

Inmates convicted of murder, treason, rape, armed robbery, car-jacking, sexual offences or violence driven offences did not qualify for the presidential pardon.

“Our 46 prisons nationwide are overpopulated. We have a holding capacity of 17,000 but we have been holding over 19,900 prisoners,” Mthembo was quoted as saying.

She said the presidential pardon will help improve living conditions for the remaining inmates.

The country’s constitution allows the president to extend amnesty to prisoners whenever he wishes and Mugabe has regularly done this.

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