54 prisoners freed

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MASERU — Fifty-four prisoners in Lesotho’s jails were set free on Monday in a general amnesty.
The prisoners were granted amnesty by King Letsie III as part of celebrations to mark the king’s 48th birthday.
The king’s birthday was on July 17.
Speaking at a press conference at the Lesotho Correctional Service’s (LCS) headquarters in Maseru, Matšeliso Lephoto, the chief rehabilitation officer, said the prisoners were released after their names were approved by the Pardons Committee.
“They were released under the Constitution of Lesotho and the Pardons Committee studied whether they had been fully rehabilitated and ready to return to their communities,” Lephoto said.
She said the prisoners were given training while they were still in jail to help them cope with life outside jail.
“We look at many things. When someone arrives we must know who they are and why they are in jail. Then we look at how we can help to rehabilitate them,” Lephoto said.
“(Before we release the inmate) the most important person is the person who was affected by the crime and what they say about the convict.”
Lephoto added: “Most of the time the community sees that rehabilitation has worked and they say the imprisoned person should come back home and they also commit themselves to helping them after their release.”
This week also marked the return of two members the LCS staff, assistant commissioner Phaello Malataliana and Superintendent Lipholo Nthako, from a 12-day Southern African Development Community and UN Corrections/Prisons Pre-mission course in Zimbabwe.
The course ran from July 11 to 22.
“The course dwelt with how to curb overcrowding in prisons and uphold the rule of law, especially in conflict areas, among other topics” Malataliana said.
Lephoto said representatives from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recently conducted a three-day needs assessment of the correctional services unit.
They sought to assess other criminal justice factors which impact on the number of offenders who enter LCS institutions.
The LCS said key areas addressed included conditions and physical infrastructure of correctional institutions, women and juvenile offenders, availability and use of alternatives to imprisonment, pre-trial detention and staff capacity and development.
The delegation inspected all Maseru-based correctional institutions as well as those in Berea, Leribe and Mafeteng.
A similar inspection was carried by the former Ombudsman, Sekara Mafisa, in 2006 and he reported shocking findings.
Mafisa reported that some prisons were too cold during winter while others were so filthy that they were not fit for human habitation.
He reported that sodomy was rampant amongst inmates who were also exposed to sexually transmitted diseases.

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