the Commissioner-General of the Namibian Correctional Service, Raphael Tuhafeni Hamunyela

As bad as overcrowded prisons are in the U.S. and Europe,  the issue of  mass incarceration is hardly limited to the West. It has for too long been an unacknowledged side effect of the westernization of the world. Regions of the world that have little experience with imprisonment have embraced it wholeheartedly, sparking a horendous human rights problem in the developing world. It’s former reliance on community to control its own, has devolved into an unhealthy  acceptance of imprisonment as the solution to criminality. The extent of this problem can be gleaned from an article in New Era Live, a southern africa publication, 

“In Malawi – one of the countries with among the highest levels of congestion in correctional facilities in the world – overcrowding has been put down to a phenomenon in which people who have committed minor offences are sent to jail instead of being sentenced to community service.

Things got to a head in 2006 when the country’s Constitutional Court declared that the extent of overcrowding in some correctional facilities amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The top court urged the government of Malawi to take concrete steps to reduce the overcrowding by half and improve ventilation and prison conditions in general.

Now, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Malawi Prisons Inspectorate will this June support training of magistrates in different parts of the country on the use of alternatives to imprisonment when dealing with people who overstep legal boundaries.

This is in line with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures of 1990, commonly known as The Tokyo Rules which promote greater community involvement in the administration of criminal justice and in the treatment of offenders. Additionally, they promote a sense of responsibility towards society among offenders.”

If one reads between the lines, it is apparent that Malawi is sufferring from mass incarceration as is the U.S. and the rest of the world. One needs to address this issue as a worldwide problem and not just one impacting the West.

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