The National Assembly this week unanimously approved a draft law which imposes hefty penalties on inmates who are caught after escaping prison. The Bill is equally unforgiving of those convicted of assisting in the escape.
The draft, which is expected to sail through Senate before it becomes law, was presented before the Lower House of Parliament on Monday by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Moeketse Malebo.
Under the proposed law, a prisoner who escapes or attempts to escape from a correctional institution is liable, on conviction, to a M30 000 fine or 10-year imprisonment or both.
Anyone convicted of helping the inmate escape would be fined M50 000 or jailed 10 years or both, the Lesotho Correctional Services Bill 2015 further states.
The draft law also proposes a maximum of two, three-year terms for the Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) Commissioner. The commissioner, the Bill further stipulates, would be appointed by the prime minister in consultation with the correctional services minister.
According to Mr Malebo, when enacted into law, the Bill would bring “meaningful change” to the LCS and also impose measures to deter prison-breaks.
Reads part of the Bill: “A person who escapes or attempts to escape from a correctional institution commits a criminal offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine of M30 000 or imprisonment for a period of 10 years or both.
“A person who aids an inmate in escaping or attempting to escape from a correctional institution, or a person who, with intent to facilitate the escape of any inmate, conveys anything into the correctional institution or to an inmate, and with intent that the thing shall come into the possession of any inmate, places that thing anywhere outside a correctional institution, commits an offense and is liable, on conviction, to a fine of M50, 000 or imprisonment for a period of 10 years or both.”
The proposed law would “serve the primary purpose of facilitating the protection and prosperity of society by providing safe, secure and humane treatment of offenders in accordance with universally acceptable human rights standards, by actively assisting them in their rehabilitation, reformation and social reintegration into society as law-abiding citizens”.
The Bill also makes provision for promotions, demotions and dismissals as well as disciplinary measures and conditions of employment in the LCS.
“When enacted, the Bill would become a principal law which is in line with the constitution and universally acceptable standards in the humane treatment of corrections staff and inmates and repeal the Basutoland Prisons Proclamation of 1957,” it reads.
“The Bill has also made adequate provisions for rehabilitative interventions such as parole, pardon, leave of absence, release on medical grounds and home visits for inmates.
“The Bill would also curb the discrimination of vulnerable groups such as juveniles, foreigners, females, the disabled, terminally ill and the HIV/AIDS infected and affected”.
The commissioner would also be required to present an annual report detailing the general administration of each correctional institution and juvenile training centre; the number of inmates in each prison; work being done by convicts; punishment imposed in each prison and why, as well as rehabilitation programmes and the welfare of prisoners.