Harare, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe has begun releasing about 3,000 prisoners under presidential amnesty with the aim of alleviating congestion to reduce the threat of COVID-19 in overcrowded prisons in the country. ..
Approximately 400 prisoners were released from the Chikrubi prison and other prisons in the capital Harare on Saturday, and more prisoners were released from other prisons nationwide.
Zimbabwe’s prison can hold 17,000 prisoners, but about 22,000 before President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared his amnesty.
Those released were convicted of non-violent crimes. Those convicted of crimes such as murder, rebellion, trafficking, and sexual offenses will not benefit.
All women imprisoned for nonviolent crimes and served one-third of their sentences will be released, and all disabled persons convicted of nonviolent crimes will also be released. Mnangagwa also commuted many death sentences to life imprisonment. Zimbabwe still has the death penalty, but no one has been hanged for years.
Alvord Gapare, the commander of Harare’s prison, said the amnesty “would be of great help” in reducing spending and the threat of spreading the virus in prisons. He said a prison in the capital recorded 173 confirmed infections and one death.
Zimbabwe recorded 37,534 COVID-19s by April 17, including 1,551 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Authorities suspended visits to prisons while plans were to vaccinate prisoners as part of measures to combat the spread of the virus, Gaparet said.
Patience Gabre, one of those released on Saturday, said the suspension of visits was “severe” for prisoners.
“The blockade had to make us hungry because the prison didn’t have enough food and the family couldn’t bring food. That was the most difficult moment in my prison life.” Said Gabre, who had been imprisoned for six months for the assault.
Political activists sent to prison as part of a government crackdown on the opposition talked about the dire situation of putting prisoners at risk of both hunger and the outbreak of illness.
As another response to the pandemic, Zimbabwe has canceled the Independence Day celebration scheduled for April 18 to combat the COVID-19 epidemic.
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