It is said that prison is like a hospital; anyone might find themselves in one at anytime.
In some instances, people have found themselves in correctional facilities not by their own wrong doing, but by false accusation or some error on the part of the justice system.
Either way, the prior saying serves to emphasise the need to treat those in prison and those that come out of incarceration, with dignity and compassion.
The experience of incarceration is probably one of the most harrowing a person can ever experience, with one’s freedoms taken away and condemned to spend all hours with hundreds or thousands of others in close quarters.
It is made worse when you consider the conditions of our correctional facilities which were never meant for the kind of numbers that are currently on record.
Hundreds occupy space designed to hold far fewer numbers in all of the facilities around the country and the authorities cannot build new facilities fast enough, try as they might.
While offenders are sent to correctional facilities to be corrected for their wrong doing, we can all agree that they get more than their fair share of punishment as well due to the poor conditions.
To the extent that when they are finally released, the experience leaves such scars in their mind that many are never quite the same person they were before they went in.
Some, as in the sad case of the Chipili man reported on Page three, end their lives because they find they cannot fit back into society due to various reasons, chief among them, stigma from the community.
At only 22 years of age, Teddy Kabaso had served a three-year sentence and returned to his home, to alleged stigma.
In the end, he committed suicide and while police are making inquiries on the matter, family members have said he had hinted more than once about taking his own life.
Authorities should take special notice of such cases as the basis for their consolidation of prelease programmes for inmates.
It is important to identify volunteers or family members to serve as mentors during their re-entry. Mentors can be trained to offer support, advice, friendship and sometimes practical assistance as well.
Rebuild and repair relationships between inmates and their families (or friends if family is not an option) to end stigma.
Help those being released to make realistic plans for the first few days after release. This includes accommodations food and clothing, meeting the costs for these needs, spending free time and so forth. Then help them make realistic plans for the future outside prison.