Botswana Prison Services Dinah Marathe played down the prevalent of sodomy or anal sex inside Botswana prison cells, calling it “isolated incidents”. She said that has not been happening a lot because even the inmates, either are secretive about that or do not condone such act and report it to prison authorities.
Marathe emphasized before a Parliament Accounts Committee that sodomy or any sexual act inside prison is illegal. She said in most cases the Botswana Prisons would investigate or take the matters to court, but do not restrain from punishing or meting disciplinary action on inmates who partake in sex.
“The issue of sex in prisons is a dicey one to deal with. We cannot talk of its prevalence and stop them from having sex with each other but when they are reported or caught they face the law. Also the prison commissioner is empowered to act where possible on such issues,” said Mathape.
Sodomy is also criminalized in the penal code and many prisoners have been in court after brawls associated with sexual relationships. Some NGO have also called government to provide inmates with condoms and ARVs as HIV is said to be prevalent in prisons.
Marathe denied provision of condoms saying that would allow sex in prisons which is illegal. Two years ago Botswana Prisons Services held the same stance before the same committee. Then appeared the former commissioner Silas Setlalekgosi who said they cannot measure the prevalence of sex or sodomy in prisons because it is normal done in secrecy or privacy. On condoms he said that would be giving immoral connotation and that they can have sex which is illegal in prisons.
The legislators also asked if Marathe is planning on allowing conjugal visits by or to prisoners. This is where one is visited by their spouse or partner for conjugal reasons. Marathe seems to not have thought of that. In April this year she visited Zimbabwe to benchmark on their rehabilitation process where a prisoner is allowed to visit spouses and relatives when he seen to be scoring more points in good behavior.
Marathe was impressed in this development at Zimbabwe saying it works wonders in rehabilitating prisoners. At Zimbabwe, prisoners are also made to work on big industries and farms. Marathe want to bring that home.
On other issues, Marathe said they have since improved in security and intelligence department over the years. She however decried of congested prisons despite having a carrying capacity of 4000 with over 23 centres. The last prison population done showed Batswana prisoners to be 3882.
Marathe said Botswana build its prisons having more normal prisons than five high security prisons. She said now Batswana are committing serious offenses congesting the five high security centres which would then spill inmates into other prisons.
She asked for improvement of prisons infrastructure like more CCTVs and doing visual meetings to prisons by members of the public. She said there is need for prisons to be centred and integrated so that they can be controlled from one command centre as that would improve efficiency.
Marathe revealed that already a rehabilitation prison in Lobatse, which will also have facilities for high security prison, is being pipelined for construction. She emphasized the impotance of rehabilitating prisons so that they can come back to the society reformed and be beneficial.