The Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) has access to resources from Tilitonse Basket Fund which will be used to implement a two-year-long project called ‘Achieving Responsiveness and Accountability of the Prison Service Delivery System in Malawi’.
The project which is worth £176,268 (MK 109, 286,160.00) commenced in November 2013 and it will wind up in October 2015. Its area of implementation is in three prisons namely; Chichiri Prison in Southern Region, Zomba Maximum Security Prison in Eastern Region and Mzuzu Prison in the Northern Region.
Just like the Project title suggests, the goal of the project is to achieve accountability and responsiveness of the Health Service Delivery in Prison.
The project’s purpose is to ensure adequate access to medical health services for all prisoners.
CHREAA believes that at the conclusion of two years of the project’s life span there will be in Malawi an increased resource allocation for the health service delivery in the Malawi Prison Service.
It also hopes that at the end of the project the Malawi Prison Inspectorate Committee will be empowered to effectively discharge its constitutional mandate by producing a report and present it before Parliament thereby ensuring that Parliament takes action in allocating enough resources to the Malawi Prison Service.
The project also seeks to increase awareness of prisoners’ rights and entitlements through advocacy and civic education through media awareness campaigns and lobbying.
When the British Colonial government first constructed a prison in Zomba in 1935, which later would become Malawi’s maximum security prison, it became the launch of the country’s prison system.
The main objective of the British administration at the time was to create a detention centre that would serve as a political instrument to silence political opponents and therefore it was administered in an oppressive manner. The prison conditions were further perpetrated by the single party system of government that took over from the colonial rule. It put in place prisons that were detaining suspects with impunity as they were being found guilty without trial albeit under inhuman conditions.
However, with the advent of democracy and a multiparty system of government in Malawi in 1994 the prison system achieved major reforms to be in line with a newly enforced 1994 Constitution which clearly provides for rights of prisoners.
Section 42 (1) (b) provides for the right to be detained under conditions consistent with human dignity, which shall include at least the provision of reading and writing materials, adequate nutrition and medical treatment at the expense of the State.
The Malawi Prison Service is a department under the Ministry of Home Affairs and Public Security which has to avail such provisions to those in detention. Its operations are provided for under the Laws of Malawi Chapter 9.02 and the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi Section 17:163. And it is regulated by Prisons Act of 1966. Its mission statement is to contribute to public security and socio-economic development in Malawi through the provision of safe, humane custody and rehabilitation of offenders.
3.0 JUSTIFICATION OF THE PROJECT
Though the legal framework safeguards the rights of prisoners, the prison conditions continue to deteriorate and do not conform to the standards set by the Constitution or other instruments of international law of which Malawi is a party to.
3.1 PRISON CONGESTION
From what one can see of the state of affairs so far, the prisons are overcrowded and this ferments the spread of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and also the spread of HIV which causes AIDS. The 79-year-old Zomba Maximum Security Prison for example was designed for a capacity of 800 but it now holds an average of 2,021 detainees, which is over 2.5 times its capacity.
The same can be said of Chichiri Prison which when CHREAA staff paid a visit in September 2, 2013 held 1658 convicts and remandees, despite the prison’s capacity for only 800.
Apart from congestion, prisoners in Malawi are not provided with an adequate diet, sufficient medical care, or with adequate clothing as well as cell supplies as per required by the Malawian Constitution and law.
The conditions have deteriorated further with the culture of overcrowding and ill treatment that is now so deeply imbedded.
In a report issued in 2011 in collaboration with CHREAA, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa found that Malawian prisons were operating at 197.6% of their occupation capacity.
Though the international standard for cell floor space per prisoner is accepted at 3.5-4.5m2, the report found that in Malawian prisons it was 2.5 m2 and in some facilities as low as 1m2.
The report also noted concerns related to proper ventilation and the spread of communicable disease given the severe overcrowding in the cells at the surveyed prisons.
The report concluded that “the overwhelming picture is that conditions of detention are poor and fall short of what is generally accepted as humane detention.”
3.2 RESOURCE ALLOCATION
The institution which is mandated by the constitution to monitor the conditions, administration and general functioning of penal institutions taking due account of applicable international standards is the Inspectorate of Prisons Committee established under section 196 of the Constitution.
The inspectorate is to cause to be laid before the National Assembly such reports as submitted by the Inspectorate of Prisons and such reports are to be so laid through the Minister responsible for Prisons in the form of a motion for acceptance of the recommendations of the Inspectorate of Prisons.
Unfortunately, the last report of the Inspectorate of Prisons was made in the year 2009, two years after the Supreme Court’s indictment of the conditions in Malawian prisons, Gable Masangano v Attorney General
 and since then no other report of the Inspectorate has been made nor laid before parliament for acceptance.
In the Gable Masangano
case, the court held that though the prisoners may have their right to liberty curtailed by reason of lawful incarceration, prisoners retain all other human rights as guaranteed by the constitution. And the court made an order that the government should comply with the judgement within a period of eighteen months by taking concrete steps in reducing prison overcrowding by half, thereafter periodically reducing the remainder to eliminate overcrowding, improving ventilation and improving prison conditions generally. Parliament should therefore make available to the Prison service adequate financial resources to enable them meet their obligations under the law to comply with this judgement and the minimum standards set in the Prisons Act and Regulations.
The inactiveness of the Inspectorate of Prisons creates a serious gap where the ensuring of better prison conditions is concerned. The allocation of funds that the parliamentarians make to the Prison Service in the current situation, where there is no report from the Inspectorate of prisons, leaves a lot to be desired as they are not fully informed on the real status of the prison conditions as required by the Constitution.
Interestingly in the year 2010-2011, the government of Malawi increased the budget allocation for the Malawi Prison Service from 558.7m (Mwk) to 1.2bn (Mwk) translating to an increase of $3.7m to $7.9 m. (provide footnote where you got this info)
However, the main challenge is that the prison clinics are not adequately supplied by government with the essential medical drugs that can deliver this service such that when the prisoners are referred to the clinics they cannot get the medical assistance as required. This is due to huge cuts of Prison Health sector funding by the government. This in itself poses a lot of threat to the health of prisoners in Malawi.
Malawi Prison Service
Realistic versus Approved Budgets for Five Fiscal Years- Prison medical section
||Realistic Budget (MK)
||Approved Budget (MK)
||% of the approved Budget to Realistic Budget
Apart from the lack of medical drugs, the prison clinics are headed by clinicians who only have basic medical training but do not have all the necessary expertise to deal with all medical issues in the prisons.
The inactiveness of the Inspectorate of Prisons perpetuate poor health delivery service in the prisons as Parliament is not fully informed of the conditions in the prisons in order to take action in eradicating the same.
Apart from the Inspectorate of Prisons there is no National Health Platform to review the prison conditions and lobby through parliament and other international bodies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to put pressure on the government to improve the current prison conditions.
It is against this background that CHREAA demands more accountability and responsiveness on the part of the Malawi Prison Service to improve the current prison health conditions.
4.0 IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROJECT
It is based on the challenges presented herein that CHREAA embarks on this project with the hope of transforming the current status quo where the health service delivery system is malfunctioning to one where it will be able to serve the prisoners better. The human rights body intends to accomplish what the project has set as its objectives by carrying out the following:
- Conduct research and produce documentaries on current health conditions in the Prison.
- Establish a National Health Platform.
- Establish doctor visiting schedules in prisons.
- Conduct lobbying meetings with key stakeholders.
- Prepare written submissions to the Treasury, Budget and finance Committees of Parliament, the Cabinet Committee on the Economy and the Ministry of Finance.
- Monitor and Publish a budget process in relation to the budgetary allocations to Prison Health Service.
- Support the Inspectorate of Prisons Committee to visit prisons.
- Support the Prison Inspectorate to produce reports after having conducted the prison visits.
- Organise a series of media programs on radio and print media.
- Develop leaflets and posters which shall cover information on the minimum standard rules for the treatment of prisoners as well as prison regulations
- Organise trainings for magistrates and police officer on pre trial detention.
- Organise open day campaigns in the Prisons which shall be aimed at educating the Prisoners on their Health rights and the responsibility.
- Ensure that the health service delivery in the prisons is all inclusive where children who are in prison with their mothers do access services in line with paediatrician right inside the prisons.
m. Establish prisoner’s Health Groups in Prisons.
It is against this background that CHREAA demands more accountability and responsiveness on the part of the Malawi Prison Service to improve the current prison health conditions. The government has repeatedly stated that it is unable to improve prison conditions because of limited resources. However the court in the Gable Masangano
case rejected the governments’ argument holding that the lack of resources cannot act as a defence. The government should improve the prisons conditions by complying with the Constitution, Minimum Standards set in the Prisons Act and Prisons Regulations and the Gable Masangano case.
And even in case of change of government, CHREAA will engage in active lobbying in conjunction with all other stakeholders to consolidate support for the activities and goal of the project.
 See OSISA Report, Pre- Trial Detention in Malawi: Understanding caseflow management and conditions of incarceration (2011).
 See Section 196, Republic of Malawi Constitution (1994).
 See Gable Masangano v Attorney General and Others (Constitutional Case No. 15 of 2007)
 A compilation by Dr Henry Ndindi, Malawi Prison Service (2014).
 See Prisons Act, Chapter 9:02 of the Laws of Malawi.