MPs vehicle faulty NGO ideas on prisoners' rights

11Feb 2019
Editor
DAR ES SALAAM
The Guardian
MPs vehicle faulty NGO ideas on prisoners' rights

DISBELIEF and incomprehension was the reaction among many level-headed individuals who heard the call by a committee of Parliament that convicted prisoners ought to be visited by their wives and facilities created for privacy for a whole stretch of reasons.

One reason was that this would reduce incidents of same sex relations in prison (as if when such incidents occur outside prison, anybody was restrained from meeting his wife), and several others.

At one point the committee said if a prisoner stays for seven years without conjugal fulfillment he risks not having children again, and definitely expect that the public will sympathise with such convicted robbers.

For some reason, scores of MPs choose not to see the gravity of offences for which individuals are put to jail for seven, ten, 20, 30 years or in perpetuity, and pursue shambolic reforms that will make crime a way of living.

Scores of potential criminals stop short of going the whole hog for fear of being marginalized permanently, and there is a provision in law that allows a woman to sue or seek for divorce if the husband is put behind bars for a long period of time.

When it is a civic offence that is one thing, but a criminal offence is also injurious to the dignity of the woman the person is supposed to be loyal to for his life, and thus a disruption is judicially valid.

There is no doubt that these ideas aren't totally original in their character, as it is rare to hear public discussion or in religious environments people tinkering with how to organise to bring about reforms so that prisoners can meet with their conjugal partners at specified times once in a while.

Additionally, if that was to be permitted, there is no reason such right should not be extended to other prisoners, as activists would give them phone numbers of call girls, the price would be agreed, and they would be visited as well.

Then crime would shoot to the roof, a situation that MPs (or a section of them) pointedly decided to ignore, to please a number of NGOs.

Former president Jakaya Kikwete once said that 'to brains of being told, add your own' in which case we can legitimately pose a question as to whether this idea, even if it is practical in some European countries or a few other places besides, was checked with local realities.

Such an idea is palatable where crime levels are abysmally low, in which case being incarcerated becomes something rather abnormal which shocks all of us, and perhaps for circumstances many people can understand.

But the society that we have is not one to bring down the level of deterrence that potential criminals look in the face, as society would pay the price of diminishing fear, pain.

We must insist that the conditions that prisoners face ought to remain the same especially in issues of privation, and in addition, as President John Magufuli has reminded the Prisons Department commanders, prisoners ought to produce their own food and build houses for their own incarceration and staff housing.

Prison isn't a place for leisure and especially when one is talking about robbery with violence, but a correctional facility where one's character is hopefully changed for the better. But character can only change is the person starts believing that he was wrong in what he did, not just because there are sermons there but hard labour and real privation.