“You are hereby sentenced to prison for 10 years with hard labour”! This statement or its equivalence is not very strange to many who have read or heard the courts passing verdict on accused persons who were undergoing criminal trial.
When convicted persons are condemned to such sentence, they are taken to a prison, which is basically an institution for the confinement of such people who have been deprived of their liberty following conviction for a crime.
Basically, when sent to prison, one would think that theirs is a condemnation that seeks to let them suffer and nothing else. Well, that is just one of the theories of punishment and it’s called ‘retribution’. It insists that a person deserves punishment as he has done a wrongful deed and the penalty be equivalent to the grievance caused by the person. Well, this along with deterrent theory which suggests that evil should be returned for evil appear to be belonging to the ancient days.
In this modern era, particularly in countries like the present Malawi where adherence to principles of democracy and constitutionalism appear to be non-compromised, focus is turned to progressive theories of punishment one of which is reformative theory.
Under reformative theory, which appears to be at the center of recent policies in Malawi Government, the objective of the sentence is confine and reform the offender (if capable of being reformed). Indeed, one can argue, and rightly so, that this is not a punishment virtually but rather a rehabilitative process.
Thus, this process helps in making a criminal become a good citizen as much as possible. This has turned out particularly true with two inmates who opted to get education inside the prison walls and sit for the competitive Malawi School Certificate of Examinations (MSCE) and passed impressively.
The development has caused the Malawi leader, President Lazarus Chakwera, to granted pardon to the two inmates following their selection into public universities after excelling in the 2022/23 MSCE exams.
The Presidential pardon has been announced through a statement issued by the Ministry of Homeland Security, signed by its Secretary Oliver Kumbambe. Prisons in Malawi fall under the authority of the Ministry of Homeland Security.
The two prisoners, whose names and ages have not been provided in the statement, have been selected to pursue studies at the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (MUBAS) and Mzuzu University.
The President has granted the pardon guided by Constitutional provision, particularly section 89(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi which empowers and authorizes him to exercise pardoning mercy on prisoners.
The statement by the Ministry of Homeland Security claimed that the fact that the two prisoners managed to excel in education while in prison highlights their reformed and re-focused minds.
“The pardoning of the two prisoners by His Excellency the State President is an act of mercy and recognition of the right to education”, reads the statement in part further stating that “the pardon is also an indication that prisoners are there to reform and rehabilitate inmates by, among others, providing psycho-social support and counselling”.