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"Zambian prisoners are starved, packed
into cells unfit for human habitation,
and face beatings at the hands of
certain guards or fellow inmates," said
Kenneth Roth, executive director of ...
Human Rights Watch. "Children,
pregnant women, pre-trial detainees,
and convicted criminals are condemned
to brutal treatment and are at serious
risk of drug-resistant TB and HIV
The groups called on the Zambian
government and its partners to make
immediate improvements in prison
conditions and medical care, and the
criminal justice system, both to respect
the rights of prisoners and to protect
public health.
The report says that prisoners frequently
spend years in prison awaiting
resolution of their case. Over a third of
inmates in Zambia are not serving time
following a conviction but are in prison
on remand, awaiting trial or other legal
action. They frequently have no access
to a lawyer or to bail and may wait
months even for an initial appearance
before a judge. Immigration detainees
often linger in prison with no due
process. Partly as a result of such justice failures, wedding dresses for pregnant brides
overcrowding is endemic in Zambian
prisons. Children and adults, remand,
immigration, and convicted detainees all
are held together in spaces so tight that
at some prisons, they are forced to sleep
seated or in shifts. Food provided by the
government is so inadequate that food
has become a commodity traded for sex.
Water is unclean, no soap is provided,
and bathing facilities are squalid. Many
prisoners are not provided with
uniforms and wear rags. Blankets crawl
with lice.
Infectious disease - in particular TB and
drug-resistant TB - is a serious prison
health and public health danger as a
result of these conditions. The
conditions in TB isolation cells are life-
threatening, yet inmates who have
completed TB treatment choose to
continue sleeping in the cells with
prisoners with active TB because they
are less crowded than general
population cells. HIV prevalence rates
are high, last measured at 27 percent.
While testing and treatment have
improved at some prisons, serious gaps
remain, particularly at smaller, rural
prisons. A ban on condoms makes HIV
prevention impossible.
"People are dying," said Godfrey
Malembeka, a former prisoner and
prison rights activist who is executive
director of PRISCCA. "Zambia has an
obligation to ensure humane treatment
for prisoners. Human beings cannot live
the way the prisoners are living - it is
Physical abuse only compounds the ill

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