Prior to COVID-19, ZPCS Chaplains were used to conduct church services every Saturday and Sunday with 300 to 2000 inmates depending with the prison’s holding capacity. In some cases, inmates were encouraged to give an offering inform of soaps, dry rations and vaseline. These offerings were promptly distributed among the inmates in need. In fulfilling the mandates of the Great Commission, the converts were grouped into discipleship classes, subsequent baptism.
Inmates were also involved in various chaplaincy rehabilitation programs such as pastoral counselling initiatives, theological and pastoral studies with various churches establishments and learning institutions. The students graduated with various certificates, diplomas or degrees.
African Spirituality is expressed in songs, dances, clapping of hands, traditional and modern musical instruments. Thus, the emphasis on gospel choral groups in our prisons and correctional centers. Before COVID-19, gospel choral groups were allowed to move from one section of prison to the other, worshipping God through music. Also, these groups preached the gospel through music in streets, church gatherings and other functions upon invitation. With the help of religious organizations, inmates recorded gospel albums which in turn were sold to outside communities. Money raised was used to support families of the gospel choral group members.
Reintegration was also done in conjunction with various churches. The inmate received welcome at the church of his or her choice with the help of chaplains and social workers. The colorful day resembled the return of the prodigal son. The church involved would then mentor the ex-inmate until he or she becomes self-reliant and spiritually mature.
ZPCS Rehabilitation Model
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) rehabilitation model is holistic and comprehensive in nature. ZPCS rehabilitation model encompasses academic education, sports and recreation, skills training, vocational training, spiritual counselling, and psychological rehabilitation(http://www.zpcs.gov.zw/). These intertwined facets of rehabilitation work hand in glove to attain a successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders. Notably, ZPCS does not work in isolation, various stakeholders which includes religious organizations, non-governmental organizations and the corporate world are involved in the ZPCS Rehabilitation model. Prior to the advent COVID 19, all stakeholders were able to carry out various rehabilitation and reintegration programs without restrictions. Undeniably, the devastating global pandemic of COVID-19 has brought in the new modus operand in the global functioning and ZPCS is not exempted. COVID-19 has derailed ZPCS rehabilitation and reintegration programs due to World Health Organization’s restrictions meant to arrest the spread of Corona-Virus.
The Sitz im Leben: Remaining Relevant Amidst COVID-19 Environment
Covid-19 has brought in the new normal in global activities. Upon realizing that indeed, COVID-19 is “here for a while”, ZPCS Chaplains came up with innovative ways in order to remain relevant and faithful to their calling and vocation. These ways are meant to mitigate the prevailing COVID-19 environment. Thus, as faithful Shepherds and dedicated frontline workers behind prison walls, ZPCS Chaplains continues to provide the Ministry of Presence to inmates and officers despite the prevailing unfavorable COVID-19 environment.
In some prisons, chaplains use public address system to spread the gospel to inmates. Inmates in their various sections are able to hear the word of God. However, not all prisons are privileged to have these public address systems. Also, they infringe on the rights of atheist and other minority religions. Nonetheless amidst these concerns, the gospel is preached.
The chaplains identified cell group leaders among inmates. The cell group leaders are involved in teaching classes with the chaplain twice a week. In turn, these cell group leaders conduct cell groups among the inmates during the night, impacting the teaching received from the station chaplain.
As a psychosocial support model, the chaplains are involved in one-on-one counselling and group counselling with inmates. Amidst these activities, COVID-19 guidelines are observed. Reports from the chaplains indicates that initially inmates hesitated to approach the chaplain fearing contracting COVID-19. But as the issue of COVID-19 continued to be demystified, a number of inmates are frequenting the chaplaincy counselling sessions which are done in open space.
The chaplains are also encouraging inmates to take advantage of COVID-19 lockdown measures to read and study the Word of God. Some inmates reported that they have gone through the whole bible more than once. Such entails spiritual nourishment, growth and maturity among inmates.
Virtual and online services are significant during the prevailing environment globally. Due to technological setbacks, we are unable to hold virtual or online services. These services demand electrical gadgets and internet data which we are not privileged to. However, in few prison complexes where there are televisions and radios, inmates are watching pre-recorded sermons from Chaplains and other clerics. Currently we are advocating for more gadgets and ecumenical mobilization of players to promote this noble initiative. If more donations of radios and television sets are availed, the gospel will reach every inmate without hinderances.
ZPCS officers are not forgotten during this period. While observing COVID-19 guidelines, Chaplains continue to provide the Ministry of Presence to officers and their dependents. The ministry includes systemic therapy, marriage counselling, officiating indoors marriage ceremonies and grief counselling. In COVID-19 free deaths, the chaplains are involved in the burial of officers.
During national funerals involving national heroes, the ZPCS Chaplain General and Deputy Chaplain General ZPCS together with other heads of Chaplaincy from sister uniformed forces are involved in the virtual services with the families and relatives of the deceased. More so, the chaplains form part of the funeral cottage during burial of national heroes at National Heroes Acre. Chaplains will be part of the selected few in the entourage that proceeds to the graveyard to offer burial ritual to the departed cadre.
Rev M.T Muchanyereyi (C/Supt) (BA Theo (CUZ), MRS(UZ), Dmin Chaplaincy (Cand-AU)
Deputy Chaplain General