Zambian jails are 'deathtraps'

FOR punishment inmates in Zambia's jails are stripped naked and held in solitary confinement in windowless cells, sometimes for days on end, in ankle-to-calf-high water contaminated with their own excrement.

FOR punishment inmates in Zambia's jails are stripped naked and held in solitary confinement in windowless cells, sometimes for days on end, in ankle-to-calf-high water contaminated with their own excrement.

This is according to a report released this week by Human Rights Watch and two African human rights groups.

Prisoners routinely live in overcrowded cells in which there is no room to lie down at night, leaving them to sleep in shifts, pressed against one another

The report describes Zambian prisons as "deathtraps" beset by overcrowding, malnutrition and rampant disease.

Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison, built in 1950 for a capacity of 400, now holds 1731 inmates, the report said. Lusaka Central Prison, built in 1923 for 200, contains 1145 people.

Prisoners told investigators that their bodies were "packed like pigs", "squeezed like logs in a pile", or "like fish in a refrigerator".

On a continent afflicted by widespread poverty and fierce competition for government resources, prisons have long been neglected and prison conditions are often abominable.

For the newly released report human rights researchers visited six prisons in central Zambia and interviewed 246 prisoners and 30prison officers.

The Zambian Prison Service, which recently completed its own internal audit, appointed a new medical director and allowed the human rights team access to its facilities.

The report's authors creditprison authorities with "a desire and openness to improvement", and called on the government to institute reforms that would reduce overcrowding and end abusive punishments. - New York Times

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