A prison by its nature is meant to be a rehabilitation or correctional facility where prisoners are given the opportunity to reform and be reintegrated into society after incarceration, but not for some.
The story of one female jailbird who has been in and out of prison since her teenage years highlights how some have found a place they call home at least in their own twisted way.
25 year old Sasha has been in and out of prison since the age of 17.
She knows no other life and she has done it all from assault to robbery which happens to be her latest crime.
“Ndakamborwa nevanhu ndikagara 6 months ndikabuda ndikanorwa futi neumwe. This time ndine ye robbery. Handitombosizi zvinenge zvichiitika ini ndongozoona ndadzoka futi (I was once jailed after I had engaged in a public fight and spend six months in prison. This time it’s a robbery case that got me here. I don’t even know what will be happening I just end up being behind bars over and over again),” she said.
Sasha’s case is not in isolation, there are many likeminded criminals at Chikurubi Female Prison.
“Ini ndakambopinda ne theft ndikabuda, ndikazosungwa futi, ndakabuda ne amnesty now kave kechi 3 (This is the third time I’m coming back in this prison, I was once sentenced for theft and other crimes and was freed on amnesty but I’m back at it again for the third time),” said one female inmate, who just like Sasha have found home in prison.
But what is their story? Why would one choose such a path where prison is not a strange place but a place they call home.
“We don’t want to keep on coming back to prison but sometimes it’s circumstances, I have a family to feed…,” hinted one inmate while the other one said: “Sometimes you will have gotten used to the easy life and the idea of a quick buck”.
A Psychologist with the University of Zimbabwe Dr Gwatirera Javangwe said one of the major reasons why we end up having habitual criminals is that the country does not have crime specific rehabilitation.
“Some of the factors are at individual and societal level, some don’t have family support. There is also stigma and lack of skills but an issue that will break a recently released inmate is lack of food and accommodation. In Zimbabwe, we don’t have crime specific rehabilitation programmes. In other countries they have rehabilitation programmes that focus on sex offenders, fraud offenders etc, but in Zimbabwe we don’t so what they do is they go back and commit the same crime again plus we do not conduct risk assessment before releasing them,” he said.
A chat with some of the habitual criminals leaves one with more questions than answers while they speak of reform one wonders whether there is real meaning in their words.
“Haaa jere rinokwadza this time around ndapfidza ndichibuda muno ndonotsvaga basa, chero kuita hangu house girl (This time around when I finally get my freedom, I wil look for employment even if it means to be a house help),” said the criminals.
Somehow amid the limited assurance, one hopes this time around the ladies have learnt their lessons and will wave goodbye to prison walls once and for all.