BULAWAYO – More than 300 mental health patients and inmates at Mlondolozi Prison are living in better conditions after a refurbishment that created a conducive environment for psychiatric treatment, and social rehabilitation.
The institution, situated in the outskirts of Bulawayo, caters for inmates on remand and those doing time.
The improved facilities were commissioned by the minister of State in the Office of the Vice President Clifford Sibanda this week.
The renovations included transforming the family visit area to enable more contact between mental health patients and their families during visits.
The changes also place offices and spaces for engagement between mental health practitioners and patients at the centre of the prison.
“Regular contact between mental health patients and their families plays a key role in providing patients with the support they need and preparing them for social reintegration,” said Placidia Vavirai, an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) water and sanitation engineer.
This pilot project was initiated by the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) and the ICRC at Mlondolozi Prison, due to the unique needs of mental health patients.
Extensive works were carried out by ZPCS artisans and ICRC engineers to improve space, ventilation and natural lighting within mental health patients’ cells.
The works also rehabilitated water and sanitation facilities at the prison, increased the space available for rehabilitation activities, and upgraded kitchens to improve cooking capacity and save energy.
“To ensure that future repairs and maintenance can be carried out at the same standard, ICRC engineers worked closely with ZPCS artisans over 18 months,” said Thomas Merkelbach, head of the ICRC Delegation in Zimbabwe.
ZPCS deputy commissioner-general Moses Chinobvu told delegates: “Our doors remain open to those who wish to partner us in areas that include the livelihoods of the inmates as we strive to attend to our constitutional mandate.”