NGOMA — The government has announced a series of new laws to regulate visiting of inmates by their friends and family members.
Under the new regulations inmates are entitled to be visited once in two weeks on Saturdays. Previously prisoners would be visited twice a week; on Friday and Saturdays.
Addressing an audience of all local leaders and security personnel in Ngoma district, on Wednesday, Security Minister Sheikh Musa Fasil Harerimana called for public awareness on the new adjustments that come into force starting next month.
According to the new laws, women, children inmates, and those who are yet to be sentenced are entitled to visitors during the first week of the month, while the second week is reserved for those already serving their sentences.
Under the new regulations, the minister said that inmates on life sentence will be visited once in a month. And all those serving life sentences countrywide would be transferred to Mpanga prison in Nyanza District.
Harerimana continued to say that inmates who were on death row, which has since been abolished in Rwanda, will also be transferred to Mpanga prison where they will be detained separately without the privilege of getting visitors.
The minister said the new laws prohibit carrying drinks and food to the prisoners.
“The government has food for these people and it is enough for their survival. This system of taking them food and drinks is now prohibited,” he said.
Pregnant and breast feeding inmates; he said are the only ones entitled to special food and drinks on payment at prisons canteens. He said all prisons will have well stocked canteens to provide all the required food items.
The laws also permit sick prisoners to get special diet at the prisons canteen on the recommendation of medical authorities. Children are also allowed to visit their people in prison once a month during weekend.
Harerimana explained that the new ban on food is aimed at stopping smuggling of drugs to cells. He said previously many people would sneak marijuana and alcohol into prisons in the pretext of taking food.
There have been some cases where people would bring poisoned food and drinks to kill prisoners, the minister observed.
“Many people would spend a lot of time visiting prisoners instead of doing domestic work and this is what we want to reverse,” the minister noted.
He added that many pupils and students would also miss school to visit prisoners and this, he said, was affecting the country’s education sector. Concerning the state of security in the district, Harerimana said ‘it is good and improving every month’.
In 2006 Ngoma District ranked third according to police crime list countrywide, but was recently counted among the first five districts in the country with the lowest crime rate. The only crime which is still prevalent in the district is drug abuse according to security sources.
The minister blamed the high rate of drug abuse to people who smuggle into the district marijuana from neighbouring countries. He tasked local leaders and security personnel to crack down on drug dealers in order to maintain security in the district.
Other crimes reported include excessive drinking which has been blamed for domestic violance and sometimes bloodshed.
“You leaders have the capacity and capability to excel the state of security when you work together,” he said.
He urged cell executive secretaries to be active in their entailed duties, saying they have an upper hand in the development of the country as the grassroots leaders.