Public Servants Association demands Covid-19 testing for all prisoners, officials
Johannesburg - The Public Servants Association on Tuesday demanded that all prisoners and prison officials be tested for Covid-19 following a spike in infections.
In a statement the PSA, which represents more than 13 000 employees of the Department of Correctional Services, cited as a concern an incident at the Potchefstroom prison where a confirmed coronavirus case was reported last week but testing for prisoners was not approved, leading to some breaking out of their cells and setting the centre alight in protest.
The union said in addition to other proposals, the department had ignored the PSA's repeated requests for a reduction of staff per shift to limit the spread of the virus among inmates and prison employees.
"This has resulted in numerous correctional centres that confirmed their first positive case (facing) a shortage of staff as employees who came in direct contact with infected persons are quarantined," it said.
It said a reactive approach to the spread of Covid-19 in correctional centres would endanger lives and urged the minister of justice and correctional services to work on proactive solutions that should be implemented immediately.
The PSA said simply releasing offenders on parole put the onus on caring for them on communities already struggling to recover from the economic impact of the pandamic, warning: "It will only be a matter of time before these parolees will return to crime in to sustain themselves."
The labour association said the crisis at the Potchefstroom prison could could have occurred at any of the country’s 250 correctional centres.
"The PSA structures continuously report that offenders demand to be tested or be released," it said.
"The PSA therefore calls on the minster to ensure that all correctional officials and offenders are tested for Covid-19 without delay to avert a looming national crisis."
African News Agency/ANA