The history of the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) dates back to the 19th century when the Rhodesia Prison Service was established by colonial authorities. The colonial history has it that the establishment of the penal system was aimed at oppressing, punishing and humiliating offenders. This focus shifted after independence when the Zimbabwe Prison Service (ZPCS) was formed. The focus was shifted to rehabilitation of the offender as enshrined in the organisation’s mission statement. In 2013 the organisation adopted the name Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) which reinforced the rehabilitation and reintegration thrust.

The first, prison Salisbury Prison (now Harare Central Prison) was established  in 1892 to deal with natives arrested during the uprisings in Mashonaland. The second prison to be established was Bulawayo Prison (Grey Prison) following the defeat of the Ndebele state in 1894.  This followed the construction of other penal centres throughout the country between 1900 to 1910.  These included Chinhoyi, Chivhu, Gwanda, Gweru, Hwange, Kwekwe, Marondera, Masvingo, Murewa, Mutare, Mutoko, Rusape and Tsholotsho.