PRI is a proud member of the Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status. The campaign works at the national and regional level in Africa to challenge petty offences that impact the most marginalised people in our society and raise prison overcrowding levels unnecessarily.
Touting, loitering, having unpaid debts and being labelled as a ‘rogue or vagabond’ see persons arrested and imprisoned – often for lengthy periods of time while they wait for their trial and sentence – in many countries across Africa.
Some may argue that arresting people for these types of offences make society safer and reduce crime. There is, however, no evidence from research that this is the case. In fact research rather indicates the contrary, such offences expose already vulnerable people to further marginalisation and exclusion.
Detention not only adds to prison overcrowding, but also has a range of negative consequences for the
detainees and their families:
- Loss of employment for those employed in the formal sector.
- Families lose their contribution (monetary and non-monetary) to the household, even if it was small.
- Children can suffer in terms of their general care, as well as access to education.
- Children often drop out of school because the family cannot afford costs associated with schooling.
- Lengthy pre-trial detention brings new costs to families such as travel costs to visit family members in prison, and the cost of providing food and other essential necessities to their family members in prison (which the state is obliged to provide). Ultimately these impacts result in the poor subsidising the costs of imprisonment.
- Severe health consequences, especially in overcrowded prisons with poor health care services.