Speaking in Kongwa district, Dodoma region, the Head of State said the decision has been informed by what he encountered during his impromptu visit to Butimba Prison in Mwanza on Tuesday where he learned of rampant miscarriage of justice.
“I direct the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the Ministry of Home Affairs in collaboration with other security organs to visit all prisons in the country, talk to the inmates and ensure that those who are not supposed to be there are released,” he said.
The team will go from one region to another, one jail to another in search of victims of miscarriage of justice whom the president said are crying and are in urgent need of rescue.
Apart from ensuring that justice is done, the move is aimed at decongesting correctional facilities in the country, Dr Magufuli said, citing Butimba as an example, whose capacity is 900 inmates but it has 1,925 including those who are not supposed to be there.
“Thousands of people in our prisons are innocent, they are crying. I don’t want to lead a country of tears (of innocent people),” the president said.
Since directing that something be done about the injustices in Mwanza on Tuesday, some prisons had already worked on the matter with scores having been released by yesterday.
“I thank the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for taking action immediately after my directive. Butimba has released 75, Bariadi 100, Mugumu 52 Tarime (6) Bunda (24), Kahama (43) and they are continuing,” he said.
While at Butimba, inmates raised a number of issues to the president, including corruption in the corridors of justice, delayed cases, twisted charges, wrongful imprisonment and violence within the facility.
Among the beneficiaries of this initiative are eight Mwanza-based police officers who were in January this year arrested for allegedly escorting smugglers who were about to take 323.6 kilogrammes of gold out of the country.
The president directed that the officers resume their positions and continue with their duties.
Miscarriage of justice and consequent wrongful convictions are frequently cited by death penalty opponents as cause to eliminate death penalties to avoid executing innocent persons. In recent years, DNA evidence has been used to clear many people falsely convicted all over the world.
Various studies estimate that in the United States for instance, between 2.3 and 5 per cent of all prisoners are innocent. One study estimated that up to 10,000 people may be wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year.
A 2014 study estimated that 4.1 per cent of inmates awaiting execution on death row in the United States are innocent, and that at least 340 innocent people may have been executed since 1973.