Mercy Chirandu walks out of the prison gate, following her release at Chikurubi Maximum prison on the outskirts of Harare, Monday, February, 17, 2014. Zimbabwean authorities say President Robert Mugabe has pardoned 2,000 prisoners in an effort to ease overcrowding in the nation's prisons, which face a shortage of funds and even food. State media on Monday quoted prison official Huggins Machingauta as saying those freed include almost all female prisoners, offenders under 18 years, those aged over 70 and the terminally ill. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

At least 1 680 prisoners were yesterday released from prisons countrywide under the presidential amnesty.

Beneficiaries of the amnesty comprised 53 women and 1 627 men.

Some women failed to qualify for amnesty after it turned out they were serving jail terms for specified offences like murder, robbery, car-jacking, sexual offences and public violence.

The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) had initially recommended the release of 5 000 prisoners to reduce the prison population to 16 838, but most inmates failed the test.

Speaking during the release of the pardoned prisoners in Harare yesterday, ZPCS national public relations officer Superintendent Meya Khanyezi said the de-congestion of prisons was important, particularly in the wake of Covid-19.

“Today we released 1 680 prisoners nationwide, who qualified for release under the Presidential Amnesty,” she said.

“We welcome this measure as it is going to de-congest our prisons, especially in the wake of Covid-19.”

Supt Khanyezi urged the public to accommodate those released and assist in their reintegration into society.

“We plead with the public, particularly their relatives, to accept them,” she said.

“This will help their reintegration process. Most of the released prisoners find their way back to prison in no time because they would have not been accepted into the society.”

Supt Khanyezi said the released prisoners were given bus fare and travelling documents to enable them to reach their respective destinations.

“We gave them bus fare and each was given a pass which will make it easy for them to reach their destinations during this lockdown,” she said.

“We also have educated them on measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”- State media

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