Government pledges to address challenges facing prisoners

19Jul 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Government pledges to address challenges facing prisoners

MOST of the prisons in the country are congested with some accommodating double of its normal capacity, Minister for Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Ambassador Augustine Mahiga said yesterday.

Minister for Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Ambassador Augustine Mahiga.

Addressing journalists in Mwanza after completing his ten-day official visit to various prisons across the country, Ambassador Mahiga noted that the Butimba main prison in the city is congested with nearly 2000 prisoners while it has a capacity to accommodate 1000 inmates only.

“We were in a ten-day tour to a number of prisons across Tanzania mainland; I was accompanied by the director of public prosecution (DPP) Biswalo Mganga whereas we listened to queries from inmates in Mara, Simiyu, Shinyanga and Mwanza regions”, said the minister admitting that the jails are too congested.

According to him the big numbers of inmates in prisons poses a number of risks. He said most of the jails were constructed by the colonialists with the capacity to accommodate specific number of suspects and inmates.

“Most of these prisons were built between 1942, 1948, 1958.

Congestion is fuelled with the limited number of Resident Magistrates Courts, High Courts and Courts of Appeal because some of cases cannot be heard at primary courts”, said Ambassador Mahiga adding there is also a shortage of judicial workers across the country.

He cited the Tarime prison in Mara region which is accommodating 500 inmates contrary to its capacity. In Mara, the minister also visited and listened to queries from inmates at the Mugumu –Serengeti, Bunda, Kahama and Bariadi prisons. He also paid visit to the Shinyanga prison where he talked to inmates for more than seven hours.

Dr Mahiga noted that most of the suspects and inmates complained of fabrication of charges claiming to be sentenced to jail for charges they did not commit. He said they also complained over delayed investigation by the police and the slow pace of case proceedings at the courts.

“I met some elders aged between 70 and 90 years who have been jailed for allegedly entering the Serengeti National Park in search of firewood. There are also people who have been jailed for stealing chicken and mobile phones”, he noted.

President John Magufuli visited Butimba Prison in Mwanza on Tuesday, July 16, 2019 where he promised to address the challenges facing prisoners and prison wardens.

He also promised to deal with the challenges facing prison wardens which include their actual welfare, lack of enough working equipment such as vehicles and uniforms as well as shortage of houses.

Some of the inmates, who chanced to air their grievances to President Magufuli included, Hashim Kijuu who told President Magufuli that he had an issue with one of the police officers from the Regional Crimes Officer in Mwanza - who was identified by only one name as Sangali - saying he (the officer) fabricated the charges that saw him (Kijuu) entering the prison gates.