THE Prisons Care and Counselling Association (PRISCCA) has appealed to Government to give prisoners a chance to vote in the forthcoming tripartite general elections.
PRISCCA executive director Godfrey Malembeka says that it was important that the prisoners were also given chance to register as voters and participate in the elections because despite the gravity of the offences they might have committed they were still Zambians and as such they should be allowed to enjoy the right to choose a candidate of their choice.
Dr. Malembeka said that Zambia was a democratic country and as such every person was allowed to choose a leader of their choice through voting and it was imperative that even prisoners were considered and given a chance to participate in elections.
He said Government should consider setting up polling stations in all the prisons so that prisoners could vote from there and then go back to their cells.
‘’Voting is the democratic right of every Zambian and I think it is not fair for the prisoners to be left in an important national matter like voting because it involves every Zambian citizen,’’ he said.
Dr. Malembeka also said that prison was a place for people to reflect on their lives so when they came out they were better citizens and that was why it was important for the Government and society not to discriminate prisoners.He said that society looked down on ex-prisoners and this affected them greatly because despite the offences they committed they were still human and have feelings.
‘’It is important that society does not discriminate against ex- prisoners and my biggest appeal is to Government should to consider recruiting ex-prisoners for employment because most of them are good and dedicated.
‘‘It is not fair to shun a person just because they have a prison record; Government can put them in the defence force, in the teaching or health sector if a person qualifies,’’ he said.
And some concerned members of the public have commended President Edgar Lungu for his efforts to decongest the prisons, stating that it was a fatherly move that will enable prisoners live in comfort.
They said that most prisons were so congested that prisoners barely have space to move around.
Lucy Chalwe of Kalingalinga township said that the President’s decision to decongest prisons will help improve living conditions for inmates.
Ms. Chalwe said that people who were in prison, despite the offences they may have been jailed for, also have rights and it was important that to respect those rights.
Ms Chalwe said Government should consider expanding and modernizing prisons so that inmates had enough space.
‘’These people have rights and it is just a good thing for all of us to look at them like our fellow human beings because despite what they have done wrong they are still human beings just like we are and we should not forget that maybe one day it can be any one of us who is in that place,’’ she said.