The Malawi Prisons Service moved the Law Commission to review the Prisons Act in 2012. The broad aim of the review process is to align the Prisons Act with constitutional provisions and applicable international law, as well as principles on the administration, governance and management of prisons and prisoners.
The Commission developed an Issues Paper and a Discussion Paper following preliminary consultation exercises and desk research. Further, the special Law Commission has, so far, held several Commission meetings and deliberated on most of the issues that were identified in the Issues Paper. The special Commission has, in addition, conducted one prison visit to Maula Prison with the aim of appreciating the issues affecting prisons and prisoners first hand. The Commission intends to conduct further prison visits in the Northern, Eastern and Southern Regions in 2015. Further, the Commission has scheduled three Regional Consultative Workshops and a National Consultative workshop to be held in 2015.
The issues for consideration at Regional Consultative Workshops are in the following areas:
- scope and principles of the law on prisons;
- establishment, constitution and administration of prisons;
- admission of prisoners to prisons;
- conditions of confinement of prisoners; and
- early release from prison.
Some of the specific issues being discussed under the broader topics above include the following:
- procedures on the transfer of inmates of unruly behavior from a reformatory centre to a prison;
- health of prisoners;
- prisoners’ contact with the outside world;
- prisoners’ place of confinement and lawful custody; and
- rights of prisoners with special needs.
The deliberations and consultations on the review of the Prisons Act are not necessarily limited to the issues that have been laid out in the working documents. The Commission may also consider issues that may arise in the course of the programme.