By Confidente Reporter
NAMIBIAN police holding cells countrywide continue to be overcrowded with the Otjozondjupa, Omusati and Oshana regions topping the list of a combined 3 676 prison population in a day according to the latest statistics. The misery of overcrowding at the country’s 13 prisons could possibly be attributed to increased criminal activities and the slow pace of criminal trials.
Nampol’s current statistics show that while the Otjozondjupa region holding cells can only accommodate 457 inmates per day, 588 inmates on average are detained. The situation is also critical in the Omusati region with a holding capacity of 185 but accommodate 430 at a time. In Oshana, 275 inmates can be accommodated but go to 364.
The Erongo region with a capacity of 302 compared to 373 inmates held at a time while the Ohangwena region can accommodate 240 inmates but go up to 300. The Khomas, Oshikoto and Kunene regions take the sixth, seventh and eighth spots on the list with 120 compared to 187, 104 compared to 185 and 122 compared to 165 respectively.
Those doing better than others include the Hardap region that has a holding capacity of 540 but at a time accommodates only 406 inmates. The //Karas region has a capacity of 420 but detains on average 201 inmates a day. The Kavango West holding cells have a capacity of 160 but only detain 57 inmates a day while the Zambezi has a capacity of 140 compared to 40 inmates detained per day.
The Kavango West region however seems to be least affected with a holding capacity of 150 but detains the same number of inmates per day.
According to the last Baseline Study Report on Human Rights in Namibia two years ago, the country’s prison populations is rated among the highest in the world owing to the state’s emphasis on punishing perpetrators. The findings of the study were also discussed at the National Human Rights Action Plan consultative conference in the capital at the time.
The study also pointed out that while prisons are already overcrowded, the slowness of criminal trials lead to further problems in keeping sentenced prisoners separate from trial-awaiting prisoners and keeping juveniles separate from adults.
The study also revealed that overcrowding is a vicious cycle that leads to prisoners not being taken to court when needed which leads to cases being delayed. The conditions in holding cells remain poor and overcrowding in some of the country’s largest prisons remains a challenge especially because many pre-trial detainees are held with convicted inmates.
Lastly the study noted that the number of trial awaiting prisoners is very high owing to the reluctance of the courts to release suspects on bail or on warning in cases of minor offences.
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