By PASSY HAACHIZO –
THE time was 09:40 hours when the Land Cruiser driven by a female police officer carrying female police officers and wives of police officers across Central Province belonging to Nkwazi Women’s Club arrived at Mukobeko Female Correctional Facility in Kabwe.
Here, at the country’s top penitentiary, the female section had 12 children between the ages of three days and five years whose mothers are serving varying sentences for different crimes.
These circumstantial children are either born in prison or are under the age of four when their mothers enter prison and so they have to go in with them.
There has been an increase in the number of circumstantial children with a report by the Times of Zambia on February 3, 2022 indicating that the country had 50 circumstantial children in its correctional facilities with the Copperbelt accounting for 13, the highest across the provinces.
The increase in the number of circumstantial children is of great concern as it borders on the health of the innocent children who are not only deprived of their freedom but are also subjected to lack of conducive environment that is born from the congestion and lack of certain amenities in the correctional facilities.
Research shows that congestion continues to be a big problem in Zambian prisons with the Zambian prisons being among the most congested in the world.
According to Prisons Care and Counseling Association (PRISCCA) Executive Director Godfrey Malembeka before President Hakainde Hichilema pardoned over 3, 000 inmates on May 26, 2022, there were more than 25,000 inmates in various correctional facilities against a capacity of about 10, 000.
The Mukobeko Maximum Female Security correctional facility in Kabwe which has the initial capacity of 50 inmates had as of Thursday, March 2, 2023, a total of 127 female inmates and 12 circumstantial children of which four were infants.
Evidently, congestion was one of the major challenges that dogged this facility, apart from lack of transport to ferry expecting mothers and sick babies and their mothers to the hospital.
The female facility here depends on the ambulance stationed at the Maximum Security Facility to move the inmates from the facility to Kabwe Central Hospital (KCH) when it comes to delivery by expecting mothers.
These are the women who get on the wrong side of the law by offending society either intentionally or by circumstances and end up serving various sentences.
The children of these incarcerated mothers when they reach the age of five years can either be taken away by relatives of the inmates or get adopted where the inmate does not have a relation outside the prison walls but mostly the mothers get released before their children cross that age.
Some organisations that include the female police officers and the wives of the police in Central Province have passion to see the welfare of the female inmates and their circumstantial children upgraded.
Indeed, the visit by Nkwazi Women’s to the correctional facility ahead of the International Women’s Day brought joy to the female inmates.
Central Province Police Commissioner Mukuka Chileshe’s wife Kalenga Chileshe said there was need for stakeholders to come together and assist those in incarceration.
Ms Chileshe was speaking when she addressed the female inmates and their children when Nkwazi Women’ Club donated second hand clothes, foodstuffs and baby hampers to them.
She was accompanied by Central province Deputy Commissioner Charity Munganga Chanda and other 18 female police officers from various stations
Ms Chileshe said female inmates faced a lot of challenges a lot of which would be resolved if the public put resources together to help them.
“Our appeal is to consider helping them, so those who can manage come on board to help these women here. As Nkwazi Women’s Club we will be coming in once in a while to assist these women. We will sit down as women to decide on some of the programmes in this regard,” Ms Chileshe said.
Mukobeko Female Facility officer-in-charge, Assistant Commissioner Alice Nkandu said transport was one of the issues that were affecting the females as it was usually a difficult to ferry expecting inmates to Kabwe Central Hospital, unless they had to ask for the transport from the Maximum Security’s male section.
Ms Nkandu said congestion at the facility was another challenge that had rocked the female section where instead of the 50 inmates meant to be housed in the available buildings the number was at 127 as of Thursday.
She said the available facility was meant for a few number of inmates and now the overcrowding was a major challenge.
Ms Nkandu said the circumstantial children needed support.
She appealed to well-wishers to get on board and be part of those who were helping the circumstantial children as their mothers and the children themselves were facing a number of challenges.
“We do not have transport, so when these mothers came some were pregnant and we had to use the ambulance for Maximum to take them to Kabwe Central Hospital and they can fall sick at any time and even their children, so the issue of transport is a key,” Ms Nkandu said
She said the move to donate was part of the Police’s way of commemorating the 2023 International Women’s Day which fell yesterday.
“We came here on Monday and today we have come back with second hand clothes, soap, lotion and some foodstuffs after putting the resources together to get the items. In terms of numbers from the club today we are 20 but many others are not here,” Ms Munganga said.
Kangwa Mupinde, an inmate commended the police’s Nkwazi Women Club for the gesture, saying the move had shown that despite being incarcerated the inmates were still loved by the outside world.
“We are really grateful to the female police in Central Province as you have fulfilled the Bible where it said, I was in prison and you visited me,” Ms Mupinde said.
It is a good way to commemorate the International Women’s Day as shown by Nkwázi Women Club in Central Province. it is something worth emulating by stakeholders.