TWENTY-ONE prison inmates, including one female, have escaped from correctional facilities countrywide since the beginning of this year due to negligence of guards who now face disciplinary action.
Figures from the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) show that 16 escapes were recorded during the same period last year. Seventeen inmates were recaptured after the number of escapees surged to 34 in October.
In the latest cases, whose details were still sketchy last week, some prisoners escaped while being escorted by guards.
The only female Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison inmate to flee evaded guards in a nearby bush where she and other inmates were collecting firewood.
ZPCS spokesperson Chief Superintendent Elizabeth Banda said prison authorities had since activated additional surveillance and security systems.
She said officers found guilty of negligence face stern disciplinary action, including dismissal.
"Ordinarily, prisoners do not like to be in prison hence if an opportunity arises, they capitalise and make good their escape. Prisoners can even plan to escape. In some instances, negligence of our officers escorting prisoners has resulted in prisoners escaping.
"Officers-in-charge continue to remind officers to be vigilant in order to prevent escapes while prisoners are subjected to appropriate security measures and fair treatment. We also have counselling initiatives by the rehabilitation branch in order to assist prisoners to accept incarceration and avoid denial."
Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (Zacro) chief executive officer, Mr Edison Chihota, said prison officers cannot be blamed entirely, as most inmates always seek opportunities to escape.
He also advocated research to determine the cause of the problem.