Harare (New Ziana) – All prisoners, regardless of the length of their sentences, will be eligible to apply for parole, under new regulations contained in the Prisons and Correctional Services Bill that was approved by Cabinet on Tuesday.
Parole is the temporary or permanent release of a prisoner before the expiry of a sentence, on the promise of good behaviour.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the new parole system was part of efforts to modernise the country’s prisons system and legislation.
“Cabinet advises that the parole system will be broadened to provide for the eligibility of every prisoner to apply for parole regardless of the nature of the sentences they are serving,” she said in her post Cabinet briefing.
Buttressing the new parole system would be a focus on restorative justice through rehabilitation rather than incarceration of offenders.
Mutsvangwa said, once enacted into law, the legislation would also provide for the establishment of correctional community centres throughout the country which will essentially be open prisons.
These centres, she said, would also ensure the decongestion of prisons as certain prisoners will be released from standard prisons to reside in such community centres.
“They will also serve the purpose of easing the transition of inmates from incarceration life to community life,” she said.
“The legislation further seeks to promote community involvement in Prisons and Correctional Services in order to ensure that prisoners will not face difficulties and hostilities in being accepted back into their communities and within their families.”
Under the envisaged law, inmates, Mutsvangwa said, would also enjoy extended rights to consult with a medical practitioner of their choice at their own expense and also access to their lawyers before and during their trials.
It will also ensure that the prison system caters for the needs of vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, juvenile offenders as well as persons with disabilities and other special categories in society that have special needs.
Meanwhile, Cabinet also approved the Principles of the Witness Protection Bill which primarily seeks to establish an office that caters for the protection and placement of witnesses under temporary, interim and permanent protection.
“The nation is informed that the Witness Protection Bill seeks to fill the gap in the law by establishing legislation to provide for witness protection in Zimbabwe. The absence of adequate witness protection mechanisms has resulted in the police taking the responsibility of protecting witnesses,” she said.
“The Bill seeks to regulate the powers, functions and duties of the office. Furthermore, the Bill will establish the necessary procedures and measures on how witnesses are put into the witness protection programme.”