A lawmaker in Zambia has suggested that some prison inmates should be caned instead of serving custodial sentences in a bid to reduce prison overcrowding.

There are currently about 22,000 inmates countrywide with a system designed to accommodate 8,000 prisoners.

MP Kapembwa Simbao made the suggestion when a delegation from the ministry of home affairs, headed by the Permanent Secretary Chileshe Mulenga, appeared before the parliamentary public accounts committee on which Mr Simbao sits.

“Why isn’t it possible to come up with a bill which can lead to many of these offences to be translated into lashes to reduce congestion in correctional facilities? Are you scared of offloading these people on the street?,” Mr Simbao is quoted as saying by the state-owned Zambia Daily Mail.

“We need to think outside the box and my suggestion is converting the years one is sentenced into lashes. We cannot have 22,000 people put in facilities which can only accommodate 8,000 people.”

He said that the proposal should not consider those who have committed capital offences.

Mr Mulenga said the ministry sometimes relies on presidential pardons and amnesties to reduce congestion in prisons adding that there was need to build more prisons.

“There is need to realise that our population is growing, more correctional facilities need to be constructed. The way we construct schools and hospitals, why can’t we do the same with correctional facilities?” he asked.