Westville Prison.
Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)
Westville Prison. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

Coronavirus: Popcru wants Lamola to act on overcrowded prisons

By SAMKELO MTSHALI Time of article published Mar 17, 2020

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Durban - The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) has called on the Department of Justice and Corrections Minister Ronald Lamola to urgently find alternative measures of ensuring that overcrowded and understaffed correctional services centres do not become the source of the spread of the coronavirus. 

With more than 60 confirmed Covd-19 in South Africa, the outbreak of the virus in the country has had the entire nation on high alert, and Popcru says that correctional centres should also be urgently treated as a priority. 

“It is simply not enough to stop visits to these centres when there have long before the outbreak been dire challenges that have seen the continuous stabbings and killing of officials without these issues being addressed. 

“The situation in our correctional centres has long deteriorated, and new measures need to be considered,” said Popcru spokesperson Richard Mamabolo.

He said their call for the department to intervene was because over the years there had been numerous reported cases of different diseases “brewing” out of South African correctional centres yet the department had not intervened.

“The coronavirus is an urgent matter that cannot be sorted out using long term plans and we are saying that the department must ensure that there are measures to ensure that prisoners are relocated to other facilities which might be in a better position to accommodate them.

“Those facilities will obviously not be correctional centres, but there should be facilities that could ensure that in the midst of this virus correctional officials and inmates do not become victims of this disease,” he said. 

Mamabolo said they wanted the department to come up with solutions that ensure that correctional centres become self sustainable because another challenge that arose was that there was no form of rehabilitation happening within the centres due to them being overcrowded and understaffed. 

“There have been measures that we have suggested with the department such as when building new correctional centres they should be built within rural areas and they should not privatise them as has been the case,” Mamabolo said. 

He added that the issue of re-offenders, which was up to 70%, that the department was currently faced with was due to the lack of rehabilitation as the re-offenders had not gained any form of skills that would sustain them beyond serving their terms behind bars. 

When contacted for comment on the measures that the department was taking to ensure that the corrections centres do not become a hotbed for the manifestation of the disease, the Department of Justice and Corrections spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said that they would be issuing a statement.

Political Bureau

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