Congo to Free Prisoners to Cut Overcrowding

Congo to Free Prisoners to Cut OvercrowdingCongo to Free Prisoners to Cut Overcrowding

The Democratic Republic of Congo will release about 2,000 prisoners this month in a bid to reduce overcrowding in jails, the justice minister said on Tuesday.

Congo’s prisons are notoriously overpopulated and hold around 20,000 people, according to the United Nations. A 2013 study by the UN mission in the country found the occupancy rate in the capital Kinshasa’s main prison at more than 400% of capacity and documented multiple prison deaths from suffocation, The Standard Digital Newsý reported.

Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe said about 1,200 low-level offenders who have served at least one-quarter of their sentences and received approval from the prison director and prosecutor-general would be freed in the coming weeks. About 800 additional prisoners are to be released following pardons granted last week by President Joseph Kabila to all prisoners aged 70 and older who have not committed serious crimes.