Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services has announced that inmates can now be granted temporary absence from prison where they can visit their families back home and come back.

ZPCS says on its Facebook page that this is done in strict adherence to the Prisons and Correctional Service Act and its Mission, which emphasises exercising humane treatment of inmates.

The paramilitary organisation was chronicling a story of one such inmate who was released to attend a funeral.

Below is the unedited text from the ZPCS Facebook page on the story:

The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) temporarily released Sibukane Mguni, an inmate, serving 18 months for robbery at Anju Prison Farm in Mat North Province, to allow him time to attend the burial of his wife.

The permission to attend the burial was granted in terms of Section 169 of the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service Act which explains provisions of the Temporary Absence of Inmate, and which states that:

1) The Commissioner-General may, subject to such conditions as he or she may specify, grant an inmate permission in writing to be absent from prison or correctional facility under escort for a specified period for personal, family, or other reasons if, in the opinion of the Commissioner-General, the circumstances of the case warrant the granting of such permission.

2) The Commissioner-General shall notify the Minister of the absence of such inmate.

Mguni expressed appreciation for being granted the temporary absence from prison. He said, “I am very thankful that I was allowed to say goodbye to my wife and also to see her final resting place. I also got to meet my new baby though it was not a favorable time because of the circumstances. I am now more concerned about the well-being of my children but I know I have the support of my family and they will look after them for me.”

The provincial chaplain and the rehabilitation officers promised to make follow-ups on his behalf and encouraged his family to visit him so that he is kept well-informed of how his children are doing.

“Attending the funeral is also going to lighten the process of grief for Mguni and it might also be a catalyst that will motivate him to be fully invested in his rehabilitation as he knows that his children await his return and they will need him to work towards their welfare. Social workers will also continue with psycho-social interventions to support and help him cope as he finishes the remainder of his sentence,” said Principal Correctional Officer (PCO) Katsvairo, the provincial rehab officer.

It is the view of the ZPCS that attending the funeral allows an inmate to have closure as it assists him/her in dealing with the loss of a family member. Whilst prison inmates are individuals who would have committed crimes, they are still human beings. Therefore, attending funerals is a key element of maintaining family connections and also getting the necessary support for their psychological well-being.