By Farai Matiashe

The health situation at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison has deteriorated because the number of inmates has exceeded the penitentiary’s carrying capacity, parliamentarians have been told.

Three Parliamentary Portfolio committees on Women’s Affairs, Justice and Health yesterday visited the institution where they were told of the terrible conditions inmates were living in.

Addressing the parliamentarians yesterday, officer commanding Harare province, Senior Assistant Commissioner Alvord Gapare said they were incapacitated to provide prisoners with decent facilities.

“This is a grade four prison. It houses dangerous prisoners. We only have two of these in the country with Mlondolozi in Bulawayo. We cannot send the other prisoners to other smaller
prisons. The situation here is bad,” he said.

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“This morning, we had 2 508 prisoners against a carrying capacity of 1 080. We do not have a choice. Our population is higher than what we should have and this has caused a number of
health problems to inmates.”

Prison medical officer Blessing Dhoropa said the number of patients with tuberculosis (TB) was on the increase due to overpopulation.

“We have two wards in the main hospital. We are finding it difficult to contain diseases such as TB, which is being caused by the overcrowding of inmates. Currently, we have 24 TB
patients. Such diseases are common here,” he said.

“Besides patients with TB, we also have 500 prisoners on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. Of course, ARV drugs are available, but we do not have drugs for those that are diabetic.”

Dhoropa added that the unavailability of transport was a problem for inmates who needed better health services at hospitals such as Parirenyatwa.

Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health acting chairperson Daniel Molokele-Tsiye (MDC Alliance) said MPs were going to push the government to improve Chikurubi Prison facilities.

“The life of inmates has to be improved. These facilities were built for a small population in the Rhodesia era. The population has so far increased. Even the budget has to be increased because it is no longer adequate. There is also need to ensure that there are enough supplies of drugs and condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and Aids,” he said.