Prisons get new staff in bid to combat spread of Covid-19
Johannesburg - The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is confident that it is on the right track to combat the spread of Covid-19 in prisons with the acquisition of new staff members and intervention strategies.
The department has taken a decision to appoint additional staff members in an effort to fill vacant posts, especially at centre level, where they need more boots on the ground.
Department spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo stated that their two colleges could only accommodate 1 031 learners in a financial year, which made it clear that they needed to employ other means to boost the workforce.
“What we did was re-employ ex-members of the department. We then went to the Department of Defence to get 2000 members from their reservists.
“These are young officials who have been trained by the State, and we needed to introduce them to a correctional methodology and on-the-job, relevant training.”
Nxumalo clarified that the 1020 learners that recently completed training have not been dumped and that the department has decided to be strategic in its planning.
“The reality of the matter is that Covid-19 is here and it kills. Over and above that, we have natural attrition, retirement and other officials resigning.
“We then need to be strategic in how we place a new pool of officials. You do not want to expose all of them at the same time.”
Nxumalo admitted that overcrowding in correctional centres is a criminal justice system problem, and said that they could not sit back.
“We continuously engage with our partners in the JCPS (Justice, Crime Prevention and Security) cluster.”
According to Nxumalo, following the announcement of the special remission of sentences in December 2020, the special parole dispensation in 2020 and other inmates reaching their sentence expiry dates, the prison population had decreased by 15%, as it now had 141 458 inmates at its centres.
The department reportedly fasttracked its infrastructure projects and had thus managed to create a total of 1101 additional bed spaces through the upgrading of old facilities.
It is thought talks are under way relating to completion of the Tzaneen, Estcourt, Standerton and C-Max Kgosi Mampuru II facilities.
Nxumalo revealed that infection prevention control (IPC) measures are being ramped up at all management areas across the country, with specific directives to push for the continued sanitisation of reception areas, cells, offices, vehicles and ablution facilities.
As of January 19, the department’s recovery rate was at 89%, following a total of 881 active cases comprising 238 inmates and 643 officials.