By Manicaland Bureau
Churches have been urged to take a leading role in facilitating forgiveness and re-integration of inmates into society after their release from prison.
In an interview with The Herald following the conclusion of Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) Family Week, ZPCS Manicaland spokesperson Liberty Mhlanga said for many former inmates, getting out of prison was the first step in a long and difficult journey of starting afresh.
He said they would have lost touch with developments in their communities, even at family level.
“Release from prison brings with it freedom and joy but for some, it will be a time to come face to face with those whom they wronged and who in many instances may not have forgiven them,” said Mr Mhlanga.
“One of the challenges encountered during the prisons family week which was held at all prisons across the province was the failure by family members to forgive inmates and come to terms with having them behind bars and disconnected from society.
Mr Mhlanga said there was still a lot of work to be done in facilitating the rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates into society and urged churches to take the lead role in facilitating the forgiveness of inmates by society.
“Churches are the unifying force in most societies and church organisations play a critical role in the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners into society,” he said.
“They are at the forefront in preaching the gospel of forgiveness and without forgiveness the rehabilitation process is difficult to undertake.”
Manicaland’s prisons family week was successful and recorded a higher turnout compared to the inaugural family week held last year.
The ZPCS introduced a family week last year to allow inmates more time with their visiting relatives and friends as part of its efforts to build relations between inmates and the society.
This years’ edition started last Monday and ended on Sunday.
xMr Mhlanga said as ZPCS they had suspended all external jobs that were being undertaken by inmates to increase interaction.
He said there was also increased numbers of churches and other organisations that were visiting inmates.
“Inmates are really happy as they have time to interact with relatives. Others got time to solve problems at home and receive current news on events unfolding outside the prison. We could see others playing with their children and spouses,” he said.
Mr Mhlanga said security regulations were minimised to allow maximum interaction between inmates and their relatives.
“As you might be aware visits to prisons are usually regulated taking cognisance of the security risk that inmates pose. During the Family Week, regulations are somewhat relaxed to enable everyone to be visited in the spirit of promoting increased interaction between offenders and society. Usual security measures shall of course be exercised,” he said.
Mr Mhlanga encouraged members of the society, stakeholders and relatives of inmates to take advantage of the programme and share food and other societal issues with them.
He thanked various organisations for the support extended to ZPCS reminding them that there were special groups and institutions in prisons that still needed their support.