Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told Parliament on Wednesday that lack of funds was hampering plans to establish more open prisons where female prisoners incarcerated with their babies could be booked into.

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Responding to a question by Chegutu West MP Dextor Nduna (Zanu PF), who had asked him to explain government policy to ensure jailed mothers could raise their children in safe spaces since the prison environment was too tough for children, Ziyambi said government was seized with the matter.

“I want to advise that those are the measures government is looking into to ensure that such mothers are taken to open prisons,” Ziyambi said.

“Once funds are available, we will make sure that we have more open prisons and that is what we have considered to implement.”

But MDC Alliance legislator Lynette Karenyi (PR) challenged Ziyambi to prove where the open prison system was being implemented in the country.

“I implore the minister to give us evidence on where the open prison system is functioning in the country. I was once incarcerated at Mutare Remand Prison in 2012 and what I saw there was that there were no facilities at all for children. Babies living in prisons together with their mothers are not being given any supplementary food, or even special day care services like crèches,” Karenyi said.

Ziyambi could not give a specific place where it was being implemented. He only said it would be difficult to separate children from their mothers that are in prison, and so government was doing its best to ensure they were well catered for.

“Government policy is that children born of female prisoners should be with their mothers because they are better placed to take care of them. However, Cabinet then took a policy position that we should establish more open prisons to ensure that the children in prisons with their mothers are taken there,” he said.

The Justice Minister said whenever there was an amnesty for prisoners, government prioritised the release of female prisoners with children.

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