Zimbabwe has opened its second open prison, this time for women in Marondera which is about 80 kilometers from Harare. Under this programme, inmates are allowed to go home and learn new skills as part of the rehabilitation process.
At first glance these women look like they are in a hostel going about their gardening, rearing chickens, or doing each other’s hair.
”I am as good as I am at home. At the closed prison we would sleep at four, but here we sleep at nine pm, we cook on our own. We have so many projects that we do and we not told what to do but we also bring in new ideas and suggestions as to what we want to do,” submits Thandiwe Dube, an inmate.
It’s a welcome change for nursing mothers.
Rhoda Sixpence, a prisoner says: “At the closed prison we had to leave our babies at the nursery every morning but here we get to breastfeed them as much as we want and spend most of the time with them.
”The idea of the open prison is to enable inmates to reintegrate as easily as possible into society and to achieve that the women here will be allowed to go back and visit their families for five days each month.
That time is important to maintain relations.
Officer in charge, Marondera Open Prison Jubilee Madenga: “Our male counterparts when you are in prison they don’t follow the ladies but when they know you will be coming on-off and we phone them and tell them your wife will be coming that mends the broken relationships. And for the kids even if there is no father when the mother is home. The home is homely.”
Prisoners who’ve served a third of their sentences with a record of good behavior are eligible to come here, where they can start to prepare for life after release.
“The closed prison setup up was designed to punish. Now, this setup is more on the rehabilitative side. You can tell that this is rehabilitation, I made my mistakes I am being corrected and it’s going to help me to get back to society and at least I need a starting point and this is where I am getting my starting point with the projects we are doing,” says Dube.
Inmates get a percentage of profits realized from their various projects