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Zambia: Prisoner Pardon Important Step
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

THE pardoning this week of more than 800 prisoners by President Mwanawasa, is a very significant step in the fostering of good governance in Zambia.

Some of them are hard-core criminals whose death sentences were commuted to life.

The gesture should indeed be hailed as it is a clear case of healing in that the convicts have been forgiven.

The other benefit is that the release will help decongest the prisons. Zambia's prisons and police cells are not the best of places for one to venture into. In much more fairer language, they are not fit for human habitation.

Beyond that, basic facilities are not available and sanitation is non-existent. There is no water. The outlets are perfect breading grounds for diseases of all sorts.

Decongesting them is, therefore, an inevitable act which should not only cheer prisoners but the jailers themselves who have to grapple with lean resources to maintain the hundreds of prisoners.

But more importantly, the release of such a high figure pushes Zambia a ladder up as a country fast reforming and getting results in the critical sphere of good governance and the observing of the rule of law.

By such a gesture, the country and the Government are moving forward to making prisons not places of punishment but reform.

For example, those that have had their death sentences commuted to life will now have an opportunity to reflect on how bad the crimes they committed are, rather than if they had heads chopped off.

The Government should, therefore, be encouraged to continue with the reforms in prisons. Already, quite commendable steps have been made, for example in establishing open-air prisons where some of the convicts could be taken.

By doing all this, Zambia is setting ground work towards making the prisons not only habitable but places for learning. But perhaps, the greater challenge is to those who have been pardoned.


It is important to learn from the past mistakes and strive to work towards rapid reintegration into society.

Disappointingly, there have been cases where prisoners have been released only to get back to the same old bad ways. There is a story of a former hard-core convict, who told the world he had repented and was welcomed by the church and given land, but it did not take long before he slid back into the evil ways and even went further by setting up an academy for criminals. His end was death by shooting while he was escaping a police dragnet.

Such behaviour defeats the spirit of healing and forgiveness.

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