THE National Assembly has passed a new law imposing hefty penalties on inmates who are caught after escaping prison and those convicted of assisting in their escape.
According to the Lesotho Correctional Services Act (2016), 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.
The law regulates the organisation, administration and discipline within the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS), and replaces the Basutoland Prisons Proclamation of 1957. It came into effect on 1 July 2016.
Under the law, the LCS commissioner is appointed by the premier with the advice of the responsible minister. If appointed from the LCS, the commissioner would remain in office until the age of retirement, while if appointed on a contract, the tenure would be three years and subject to renewal.
The Act outlaws the subjection of inmates to “torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment” and obligates the commissioner to put in place policies, strategies and guidelines to address health challenges such as HIV/AIDS.
“An inmate shall be afforded adequate medical treatment at state expense, but not of a cosmetic nature.”
The minister is empowered, on the recommendation of a parole board, to order the release of a prisoner who has served most of their sentence.
A person convicted of assisting an inmate to escape from a correctional institution is liable to liable to a M15 000 fine or 10-year imprisonment or both. Loitering within 100 meters of a correctional institution and refusing to head a command by an LCS officer to vacate will, on conviction, elicit a M5 000 fine or two years imprisonment or both.
This also applies to a person who “willfully rides, drives or leads an animal or vehicle through a gang of inmates going to or returning from any work outside a correctional institution” as well as impersonating a LCS correction officer.
Contacted for comment, this past week, Lesotho Correctional Staff Association Secretary-General Lebonajoang Ramohalali said the new law did not cover the welfare of LCS staff.
“The law really doesn’t benefit us. On the sections dealing with staff issues, the law only deals with offences and punishments and says nothing about our welfare,” Mr Ramohalali said.