We have been to various prisons during our time in Malawi. It is unusual for people, especially westerners, to be allowed in, but Nedson is an official prison inspector for the government, which seems to open the doors for us to accompany him. Some of the prisons have been open prisons, whilst the one we visited yesterday was high security and had over 1800 men in it and a female section with 40 or so women, 6 of whom had small children.
The prison conditions are very basic, the prisoners sleeping on concrete floors with anything upto 200 in a cell. They do their own cooking, and seem to have a well organised communal life. The open prison ran its own farm and garden, and so were well fed compared to the others.
Strangely, compared to UK prisons, when we have visited, all the prisoners are gathered together in a courtyard and we join in a time of worship and prayer, led by inmates, and then we speak to them all.
Each prison tries to run a rehabilitation programme which includes primary education as many have not been educated before, and life skills such as carpentry or tailoring, but the resources are scarce – very few educational materials, tools or sewing machines etc.
Yesterday, using some of the money we took from St. Stephen’s we were able to take sugar, soap, vaseline, and sweets for the children in to the prison, particularly to the women who were incredibly grateful to Miriam and her husband!! We also visited and gave sugar and eggs to some seriously ill prisoners, predominantly suffering with AIDS or TB, and then took some educational materials to the 20 or so teachers, all of whom are inmates and teaching over 300 other prisoners.
Just looking ahead, on Saturday we are talking to 30-50 pastors, and then on Sunday are speaking at a church in a predominantly Muslim area where there are significant number of Muslim converts. We are then having a couple of days break at Lake Malawi before coming back for the last few days before flying to Christchurch in New Zealand – we understand it is still Ok to go despite the dreadful news of the earthquake.