Mutare Central constituency Member of Parliament Innocent Gonese has called upon government through Parliament to realize the need for and come up with ways to enable public access to contents of the bills prior to public hearings and widen communication channels.
Speaking during the public hearings on Prisons and Correctional Services Bill and Criminal Law and Codification Reform Amendment Bill on February 23, 2023 at Mucheke Hall in Masvingo, Gonese pointed on the need for participants to have a background understanding of the bills prior to consultations.
“Going forward, it might be advisable for us as an institution to devise methodologies that enable the people to acquaint themselves well with the contents of bills so that they are better informed because the summary which I gave may not be adequate,” said Gonese.
However the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) legislator said he was happy with the meaningful contributions they got from people though the meeting was poorly attended.
“I want to believe some of the people that came were not prepared to make contributions because it is not easy to be at the forefront in public meetings but I am happy that we got some useful contributions, very insightful and interesting views on the two bills,” added Gonese.
Some residents who attended the public hearings welcomed government efforts to bring about changes in the constitution concerning prisons and correctional facilities.
Speaking at the meeting, attendees welcomed the prisons and correctional services bill and said there was need to work on the rehabilitation of prisoners in preparing them for the life after imprisonment.
“Prison services must have well trained facilitators at the vocational centres for prisoners to learn practically and resources allocated towards correctional services including expert knowledge so that these people can learn and practice what they do,” said one of the attendants.
Some of the women at the meeting applauded the parole system and suggested that prisoners be allowed time to visit their families at home once in a while for socializing with their families.
“We wish government can allow prisoners some time to visit their families for a few days so they can get to see and know what is happening with their families. Some come back from prison to find their children raped or married off as this is quite stressing especially for us women when it happens in your absence,” said one woman.
As the world is moving towards reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners and not just punishment, the prisons and correctional services bill is set to introduce new issues such as the parole system, safety of prisoners, rights of prisoners, legal frameworks of operations of the prisons, establishment, functions and responsibilities of prison facilities, quarterly reviews and posts to the high court.