Dear Members of the Tanganyika Law Society,

In the past few weeks, political statements on the treatment of prisoners in Tanzania have been issued which have caused consternation both nationally and internationally.  The Governing Council of the Tanganyika Law Society wish to inform the general public that treatment of prisoners in Tanzania Mainland is subject to the Constitution, the Prisons Act Cap. 58 R.E. 2002 and subsidiary legislation made thereunder and our international obligations including  the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules) adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in  resolution 2015/20.

For the purpose of educating the general public and advising the Government we wish to clarify the law relating to treatment of prisoners.

Employment of Prisoners:

Pursuant to section 62 of the Prisons Act, a prisoner shall be employed in such a manner as the Commissioner of Prisons may determine. The use of the word “employed” in the Prisons Act necessarily means that the services of prisoners can only be used in return for money.  In its ordinary English meaning the verb “to employ” means “to engage or make use of the services of a person in return for money”.  In addition, article 23(1) of the Constitution, requires all persons without discrimination of any kind to be paid a salary commensurate with the work they undertake.  Rule 103(1) of the Mandela Rules requires prisoners undertaking work to be equitably remunerated for their work.  This means that no prisoner in Tanzania can be forced to work for a prison farm or to build houses for prison officers without equitable compensation for their labour.

Extra-Mural Labour

Under section 73 of the Prisons Act, a person sentenced to a term of imprisonment of less than 12 months can opt to undertake public work outside the prison instead of serving his term.  This is the only free labour of prisoners that is permitted under our law and it is at the option of the prisoner.


The Prisons (Prison Management) Regulations provides detailed scales of diet for prisoners and Rule 22 of the Mandela Rules require “every prisoner to be provided by the prison administration at the usual hours with food of nutritional value adequate for health and strength, of wholesome quality and well prepared and served”.

General Treatment of Prisoners

Rule 1 of the Mandela Rules requires Tanzania to treat all prisoners with “the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings”.

Social Relations

Rule 106 of the Mandela Rules require Tanzania to maintain and improve relations between a prisoner and his family “as desirable in the best interests of both”.

We urge all parties to respect our laws and our international obligations.


Fatma Amani Karume

President of the Tanganyika Law Society

For and on behalf of the Governing Council.

Attached is in swahili language

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