Meet the team who are working in one of the most heart-rending environments possible, transforming the conditions of Zambia’s prisons from the inside out.
When Paul Cowley, Head of Alpha for Prisons, visited a prison in Lusaka – Zambia’s capital city — last year, the terrible conditions moved him to tears. However, his vision to change conditions for the better was recently made a reality thanks to strategic thinking and partnership with the government.
Lusaka Central Prison was originally built for 200 people, but when Paul and a group of Alpha partners visited in September 2012 there were more than 1,200 men and 100 women incarcerated in the prison.
They met with the prison chaplain, who told them the prisoners were desperately in need of basic supplies – underwear and sanitary needs for the women, as well as blankets and mattresses.
Paul returned to the UK and started an appeal, returning to Lusaka two months later with 300 mattresses, 300 blankets, thirty boxes of medical soap, two sewing machines and nearly 600 pairs of underwear.
Accompanied by David Thomson, Chair of Alpha Zambia, and Father Frank Hakoola, Alpha Zambia Director, Paul also arranged a meeting with the Vice President of Zambia, Dr Guy Scott, to discuss the deteriorating conditions within the prison.
The Zambian government were keen to work in partnership with Alpha to improve conditions, resulting in ninety-eight women with children and eight very old women being released from the prison.
Reflecting on the achievement, Paul said: ‘When we see human beings treated in a way you wouldn’t treat an animal, then something should stir in our hearts and make us respond in practical ways to try and relieve that suffering.
‘I could never have imagined that by meeting the Vice-President and doing what we could do, it would end with the freedom of more than 100 captives from that prison.’