MAPUTO, — The Maputo Penitentiary, formerly known as the Maputo Central Prison, is currently holding more than three times the number of prisoners it was designed for,

The local daily Noticias reported Tuesday that when Justice Minister Isaque Chande visited the prison last week, the management told him that overcrowding there had now reached record levels. The prison has a capacity to hold 800 inmates but is now accommodating 2,744.

Of these, only 1,578 have been tried and are serving sentences. The other 1,166 are in preventive detention, many of them well beyond the legal limits for such remand.

Preventive detention is supposed to last no more than 90 days but Chande was told that the prison had 226 inmates whose 90-day rrmand period expired more than a year ago. Only 534 of those on remand were being held within the legal preventive detention period.

The director of the penitentiary, Castigo Machaieie, blamed the over-crowding on a high crime rate, and on lengthy procedural delays in the judicial system.

He complained that case files remained with the courts for a long time before judges take a decision on whether there is enough evidence for them to go to trial.

The overcrowding is becoming worse and Machaieie said that from January to April this year,1,368 new inmates entered the prison, but only 787 people were released after completing their sentences.

Chande promised to work with the Prosecution Services and the courts to ensure that the law, in matters such as preventive detention, was respected. He believed that the problems arose because of lack of co-ordination between the various bodies involved in the administration of justice.