Facts about Zambian correctional facilities
Imprisonment is difficult to endure all over the world, but in resource poor countries, the conditions of imprisonment can be desperate. The African prisons generally suffer from very poor and dilapitated constructions. Overcrowding is at very high levels, many of the buildings stemming back from colonial times, where the number of inmates was much lower. Imprisonment is difficult to endure all over the world, but in resource poor countries, the conditions of imprisonment are cause of significant concern. Other reasons for overcrowding is the large proportion of remand prisoners - prisoners who are awaiting trial. About 30% of the inmate population in Zambia are remandees.
Zambian prisons are no worse than the average Sub Saharan African prison. In fact in some ways better, levels of torture being quite low. The current command of Zambia Correctional Service is known to be modern and supportive of outside help. However, inhumane treatment due to the poor conditions of imprisonment is a concern. At the moment the Zambian Correctional Service holds more than 21,000 inmates (2018), and they try their best to do what they can within their limited means. Currently, ZCS have 3050 staff members, 25 health facilities in the more than 80 institutions around the country, meaning that many prisons have no health facilities at all.
Overcrowding is very significant. In some facilities it is up to 600% of capacity, causing not only stress but physical ailments such as scabies, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases are spread at alarming rate. HIV/AIDS rates are high, though the current prevalence is uncertain, but the last national survey showed a 27% prevalence rate. Water supply is eradicate in some prisons, and this leads to poor hygiene. Soap, detergents and disinfectants are a rare commodity. Lack of hygiene of course contributes to the health problems.
The food provided by Zambia Correctional Service is not sufficient, making food donations from relatives necessary for the individual prisoner. However, due to poverty and stigma many inmates are left to fend for themselves. Malnutrition causes amongst other diseases the condition 'swollen legs' which ultimately has a deadline outcome, if left untreated. Death can be a very real outcome of a prison sentence.
The Zambia Correctional Service does its best to alleviate the problems, yet they face significant challenges in providing for the inmate population. In the mid 2000's government implemented and 'open door policy' to open more up to the public and to get international organisations and civil society to contribute to improving the situation.
Ubumi Prisons Initiative is one of the organisations which have been allowed into prisons, and has also gained the trust of the current command to work relatively freely within the correctional facilities for the benefit of the inmates. Ubumi is very privileged in the sense that we receive all the necessary support in terms of access and permissions to do our work.
Facts about circumstantial children
Circumstantial Children is a term that describes the female prisoners' children who come with their mothers into prison. They are not in conflict with the law but their mothers' circumstances place them in prison. So to distinguish them from the children who fall in conflict with the law the term circumstantial child is used to describe this group.
A study conducted in 2010 (Simooya 2010) showed that about of the females incarcerated 6.8% were pregnant, and of these about 50% received medication to prevent HIV infection to their unborn child. 12% decide to bring their children with them in prison. Many bring their children, because they are still breastfeeding and/or because they do not have anyone in their social network to take care of them. In 2018, there was an average of 70 children in all Zambia's correctional facilities.
However, the prison regulations do not provide for the childrens' welfare but leaves them under the discretion of the Officer in Charge, who is often dependent on outside help. For instance, no extra food is provided for circumstantial children, and the children have to share their mother's food ration.
The needs of these children include basic needs such as nutrition, education, recreation and conducive accomodation as they sleep with their mothers in already congested cells or dormitories. A concerning issue is also that the growing up in prison can be damaging to a child's social development. This however does not mean that Ubumi is against children staying with their mothers, because sometimes it is the best option.
Upon leaving the prison, the children (with their mothers) get back to main stream of the society, but the children often end up going in compounds with their mothers, who in many cases are street vendors selling merchandises in the street without any adequate care to them.
Children who leave prisons by the age of 4
When children reach the age of 4 they have to leave prison, even if their mothers stay behind. This leaves some children in a very difficult situation, if there is noone to take care of them.
There are no clear guidelines reg circumstantial children leaving prisons without mothers. The prison Act has the rule that allows a child to be with their mother up to 4 years if there is no where a child can be left and above 5 years such a child shall be handed over to social welfare offices department to facilitate a child to safer institutions mainly the orphanages under foster care. However, in a country as poor as Zambia this is not without problems.
Click here to read more about our projects to learn how we help the circumstantial children.
Facts about the seriously ill
Inmates suffer immensely due to the lack of food, basic necessities and due to health problems and overcrowding. Mukobeko Maximum Prison is one of the prisons most affected by ill-health and malnutrition. Statistics from 2010 show a general HIV prevalence rate of 27% in Zambian prisons, compared to a general population rate of about 12%. TB rates are high and malnutrition is a major problem. Inmates can not survive imprisonment in the long run based on the food Zambia Correctional Service provides. This means that inmates are depend on outside help or eachother for their survival. Many inmates share their food, but there is not enough food regardless, and inmates have to live in constant fear of death.
In the bigger prisons there are prison clinics which offers basic services, and has some medication available. There is some support for HIV/AIDS/TB patients, but drugs are at times irregularly supplied, which causes the risk of multi-resistence. Lack of nutritious food also poses a major challenge to taking the medication provided and to health in general. It is necessary to take the drugs with food, otherwise patients feel very ill, and the medication can not work efficiently.
Ubumi's work with nutrition does not discriminate. We focus on all patient groups, who need help. In general, the clinical officer or nurse in each facility aided by the inmate coordinators determine who needs to be on our programme.
Ubumi also works to prevent outbreaks of infections - including diarhoeal diseases and worms through improving hygiene. We also work to increase access to clean drinking water.
Inmates taking the lead in changing the lives of others
Inmates are not only passive recipients of outside aid. They take on reponsibility for others in many ways. There is little doubt that imprisonment is very harsh leaving many to fend for themselves. Yet, care comes in different shapes. It can be the prisoners who share their food. Prisoners who help the most vulnerable with their own small means. But this is not the only way prisoners work actively to improve the lives of their fellow inmates. Schools are run by inmates, serving as teachers. Inmate Psycho-social Counsellors are educated to support inmates who have problems. In our project for the ill, volunteer inmates lead and support the project as coordinators and as caregivers.
Click here to read more about our projects for the seriously ill.
More information and useful links
Ubumi Prisons Initiative works knowledge based. The below list is compiled for your interest. Ubumi Prisons Initiative takes no responsibility for the content of the information, unless written by Ubumi Prisons Initiative staff.
Literature on African prisons
Achmat Z: ‘Apostles of civilised vice’: ‘Immoral practices and Unnatural Vice’ in South African prisons and compounds 1890-1920, Social Dynamics 19 no 2 92-110, 1993
Akeke VA et al: Assessment of Knowledge and Attitudes about HIV/AIDS among Inmates of Quthing Prison, Lesotho, West Indian Medical Journal, 2007, 56 (1): 48
Akoensi T A: Governance through power sharing in Ghanaian prisons: A symbiotic relationship between officers and inmates, Prison Service Journal, Issue 212, March 2014, p 33-38
Alexander J: The Political Imaginaries and Social Lives of Political Prisoners in Post-2000 Zimbabwe, Journal of Southern Africa Studies, 36:2, 2010, p 483-503;
Ayete-Nyampong L: Entangled governance practices and the illusion of producing compliant inmates in the correctional centres for juvenile and young offenders in Ghana, Prison Service Journal, March 2014, Issue 212, p 27-32
Ayete Nyampong L 2013: Entangled realities and underlife of a total institution, PhD thesis, Wageningen University, The Netherlands, Wageningen
CARITAS 2015: Zambia Prisons Conditions Research Report, CARITAS, Zambia, 2007
Egelund A: Masculinity, Sex and Survival, Prison Service Journal, Issue 212, March 2014
Egelund A: Surviving Zambian Prisons - prisoner experiences, coping strategies and sex in prison, PhD dissertation, Roskilde University, Denmark
Epprecht M: The Making of ‘African Sexuality’: Early Sources, CurrentDebates, History Compass, 8/8 (2010): 768–779, Queen’s University
Ewoame H 2011: Wedding Behind Bars – the Emic Perspectives of Male prisoners on Same-sex Sexual Practices in Ghana, MA thesis in Medical Anthropology, Amsterdam University, The Netherlands
Gear S and Ngubeni K: Daai Ding: Sex, Sexual Violence and Coercion in Men’s Prisons’, Research paper written for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. 2002
Gear S: Behind the Bars of Masculinity: Male rape and homophobia in and about South African Men’s Prisons, Sexualities; 10; 209 (2007).
Gear S: Manhood, Violence and Coercive Sexualities in Men’s Prisons: Dynamics and Consequences Behind Bars and Beyond, Association of Concerned African Scholars (16 September, 2009). http://concernedafricanscholars.org)
Gear S and Ngubeni K: ‘Your brother, my wife – sex and gender behind bars’, SA Crime Quarterly No. 4, June 2003
Gear S: Rules of Engagement: Structuring sex and damage in men’s prisons and beyond, Culture, Health and Sexuality, Taylor and Francis Group, Ltd, May 2005, 7(3): 195-208
Gear S and Lindegaard M R: Violence Makes Safe in South African prisons – Prison Gangs, Violent Acts and Victimisation among Inmates, FOCAAL, Berghahn Journals, Volume 2014, Number 68, Spring 2014
Kamocha S supported by UNAIDS 2005, ‘Mapping of Uniformed Services and Prisons in Zambia’, UNAIDS Country Office Zambia, Lusaka
Human Rights Watch 2010: Unjust and Unhealthy – HIV, TB and Abuse in Zambian Prisons, Human Rights Watch, ARASA and PRISCCA, USA
Ibrahim A et al: Assessment of mental distress among prison inmates in Ghana’s correctional system: a cross-sectional study using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, International Journal of Mental Health Systems 2015, 9:17
In But Free and Ministry of Home Affairs, ‘A Sero-prevalence and Behavioural Survey of the HIV/AIDS Situation in Zambian Prisons’, Project Protocol, September 2008
Jefferson A et al: Prison officers in Sierra Leone: paradoxical puzzles, Prison Service Journal, March 2014, Issue 212, p. 39-44
Jefferson A: Everyday prison governance in Africa, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, 2014
Jefferson A: Conceptualizing confinement: prisons and poverty in Sierra Leone, Criminology and Criminal Justice February 2014 vol. 14 no. 1 44-60, Sage
Jefferson A: Psykologisk Feltundersøgelse blandt nigerianske fængselsbetjente, Psykologisk Set, 20. årgang, no. 52, December 2003
Jefferson A: Discussion paper, towards humane prisons, a paper based on presentations made and discussion with members of Community Association for Psycho-social Services (CAPS) on Kailahun and Kono, Sierra Leone, May-June 2009
Jefferson A: Prison Officer Training and Practice in Nigeria – Contention, Contradiction and Re-imagining Reform Strategies, Punishment and Society, vol. 9(3), Sage Publications. London, 2007: p 253-269
Jefferson A: Traversing Sites of Confinement: Post-prison Survival in Sierra Leone, Theoretical Criminology, no 4, November 2010
Jefferson A: Confronted by Practice – Towards a critical Psychology of prison practice in Nigeria, PhD thesis, Copenhagen University, July 2004
Jefferson in Drake et al 2015: The Palgrave Handbook of Prison Ethnography, Palgrave Macmillan, Hamshire, UK and New York, USA
Jefferson A and Gaborit L 2015: Human Rights in Prisons - Comparing Institutional Encounters in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and the Philippines, Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology, Palgrave Macmillan, UK
Jefferson and Martin: Editorial Comment, Everyday prison Governance in Africa, Prison Service Journal, March 2014, Issue 212
Jolofani D and deGabriele: HIV/AIDS in Malawi Prisons – a study of HIV transmission and care of prisoners with HIV/AIDS in Zomba, Blantyre and Liliongwe Prisons, Expressions, Penal Reform International, Paris, France, September 1999
Joshua I A and Ogboi S J: Seroprevelance of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) amongst inmates of Kaduna Prison, Nigeria, Science World Journal, vol 3, no 1, 2008
Jürgens R et al 2011: HIV and Incarceration: Prisons and detention, Journal of the International AIDS Society, 2011, 14:26
Kalonga E, Assistant Commissioner: Prisons and Human Rights in Zambia – The System, Reforms and Challenges, Human Rights Issues and Complaint and Monitoring Mechanism. Human Rights Workshop, Danish Institute for Human Rights, Copenhagen, June 2009
Kamocha S supported by UNAIDS 2005: Mapping of Uniformed Services and Prisons in Zambia, UNAIDS Country Office Zambia, Lusaka
Lindegaard M and Gear S: Violence Makes Safe in South African Prisons: Prison Gangs, Violent Acts and Victimization among Inmates. 2014, Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology
Loots S and Louw D: Antisocial personalities – measuring prevalence amongst offenders in South Africa, SA Crime Quarterly, no 36, June 2011
Maggard K R et al 2015: Screening for tuberculosis and testing for human immunodeficiency virus in Zambian prisons, Bull World Health Organ 2015, 93:93-101
Marcis F L: Everyday Prison Governance in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Prison Service Journal, March 2014, Issue 212
Martin T, May 2013: Embracing Human Rights – Governance and Transition in Ugandan Prisons, PhD dissertation, Roskilde University
Mayeya et al: Zambia Mental Health Country Profile, Int Rev Psychiatry 2004, Feb-May; 16 (1-2): 63-72
MDAC and MHUNZA 2014: Human Rights and Mental Health in Zambia, MDAC, Hungary
Ministry of Home Affairs and Zambia Prisons Service 2008: Zambia Prisons Service HIV/AIDS/TB workplace policy, Ministry of Home Affairs Zambia, Zambia Prisons service, Lusaka
Mwape et al.: Integrating Mental Health into Primary Health Care in Zambia: A care provider’s perspective, International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 2010, 4:21
Niehaus, I: Renegotiating Masculinity in the South African Lowveld - Narratives of Male to Male Sex in Labour Compounds and in Prisons, African Studies, Volume 61, Issue 1, 2002
Nseluke M and Siziya S: Prevalence and Socio-Demographic Correlates for Mental Illness among inmates at Lusaka Central Prison, Zambia, Medical Journal of Zambia, Vol 38, no 2, 2011
Nseluke M and Siziya S: Prevalence of mental illness among inmates at Mukobeko maximum security prison in Zambia: A cross-sectional study. Journal of Mental Health and Human Behaviour 2016; 21: 105-7
Onojeharho J.E. and Bloom, L.: Inmate subculture in a Nigerian prison, The Journal of Psychology, 1986
Onyemocho A et al.: Effect of Health Education Intervention on Knowledge of HIV/AIDS and Risky Sexual Behaviours amongst Prison Inmates in Kaduna State, Nigeria, International Journal of Sciences: Basic and Applied Research (IJSBAR), 2014, volume 11, no 1, pp 181-192
Paralegal Alliance Network, University of Zambia School of Law and Danish Institute for Human Rights February 2008: ‘Mapping of Legal Aid and Service Providers in Zambia’, Lusaka, Zambia
Reid S et al.: Tuberculosis and HIV Control in Sub-Saharan African prisons: ‘Thinking Outside the Prison Cell’, JID, 2012:205
Sabo D et al. 2001 (Ed): Prison Masculinities, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, USA
Sardanis A 2014: Zambia - the first 50 years, I.B. Tauris, London and New York
Sarkin J 2008: Human Rights in African Prisons, HSRC Press, Cape Town.
Simenda F 2013: A Synopsis of Mental Health in Zambia, Mental Health Care in Zambia, Lusaka
Simpson A 2009: Boys to Men in the Shadow of AIDS – Masculinities and HIV Risk in Zambia. Palgrave MacMillan in United States – a division of St Martin’s Press LLC, NY, USA
Simooya O and Sanjobo N: In But Free’- an HIV/AIDS intervention in an African Prison, Culture Health and Sexuality, 3: 2, 241-251, 2001
Simooya O et al, ‘Behind walls’: A study of HIV Risk Behaviours and Seroprevalence in Prisons in Zambia’, AIDS. Volume 15, Issue 13, 7 September 2001, p. 1741-1744.
Simooya O and Sanjobo N: ‘In But free’ – an HIV/AIDS intervention in an African prison’, Culture, Health and Sexuality, 2001, 3: 2, pp. 241-251
Simooya O et al: Report: A sero-behavioural survey of the HIV and AIDS situation in the Zambian prisons, 2010, GRZ.
Simooya O: Aggressive Awareness Campaigns May Not be Enough for HIV Prevention in Prisons - Studies in Zambia Suggest Time for Evidence Based Interventions, The Open Infectious Diseases Journal, 2014, 8, 1-7
Tertsakian C 2008: Le Chateau: The Lives of Prisoners in Rwanda, Arves Books, UK
Tertsakian C 2008: ‘Some prisons are prisons, and others are like hell’, Prison Service Journal, March 2014, Issue 212
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, adopted on December 10, 1948
Todrys K et al.: Imprisoned and imperilled: Access to HIV and TB prevention and Treatment, and denial of human rights in Zambian prisons, Journal of the International AIDS Society, 2011, 14:8
Ubumi Prisons Initiative, June 2016: Monitoring and Evaluation Report of Seriously Ill Project in Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison, Kabwe
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment 2009: Interim Report on Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, UN Doc, A/64/215, 3 Aug 2009
World Health Organisation (WHO) April 2011, chapter 6: Sexual violence http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2002/9241545615_chap6_eng.pdf
YEZI Consulting & Associates March 2013: Political Governance Study in Zambia, Diakonia Zambia, Lusaka
Zambia Human Rights Commission August 2013: Report of the Prison and Police cells inspection – Eastern, Western, Northern and Muchinga Provinces, Human Rights Commission, Lusaka, Zambia
Zambia Human Rights Commission 2013: Annual Report 2013 - State of Human Rights in Zambia, Human Rights Commission, Lusaka, Zambia
Zambia National AIDS Council, Revised National AIDS Strategic Framework (R-NASF) 2014-2016
Zambia Prisons Service 2015: Health Strategic Plan 2015-2020
Ubumi Prisons Initiative works to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in prisons, the children aged 0-4 and the seriously ill.
We save lives! Read more about our projects, and support our work. There are many ways of supporting!
Ubumi Prisons Initiative
Blokken 15, 1. sal
Phone: +45 2935 0136