File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Concern over prison Covid-19 stats

By Siyabonga Kalipa Time of article published Feb 27, 2021

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Cape Town – A prisoner rights organisation has expressed dissatisfaction over the number of inmate Covid-19 infections and deaths in the province.

Department of Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said they have since stopped releasing statistics of their facilities, but they now release them regionally.

The statistics Nxumalo shared are of those who were infected with Covid-19 from March last year until February this year.

South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights spokesperson Miles Bhudu said they currently rely on what Correctional Services tell them because they are the ones who have access to the centres.

“We must accept and concede whatever they tell us because we can’t prove them otherwise and they are not working with any external stakeholders,” he said.

He said as an organisation, they were even cut off from communicating with inmates. He added that the department said they have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent the spread of the virus.

“They say they have enough PPE, but when you hear what the inmates have to say it’s the total opposite,” said Bhudu.

Nxumalo said the department is implementing all protocols as outlined in the Department of Labour and the Department of Health and contained in their standard operating procedures (SOP).

He said when a person tests positive, the first thing they do as a department is to initiate the tracing of direct contacts.

“Fortunately, we have registers to assist in identifying the officials and where they were deployed, and they are then placed in quarantine and must be tested for Covid-19,” he said.

Nxumalo said it is mandatory that a structure must be decontaminated should there be a positive case.

He said it became clear to them that infection prevention control needed rejuvenation or all their efforts would be meaningless.

Bhudu said their call to correctional service is that they must involve other stakeholders.

“Our call has been that in order for them not to be suspect to those who care about the inmates, they must try to accommodate external stakeholders,” he said.

Nxumalo said as the virus is moving towards a peak, they are fully aware of the immense task ahead, and there are already new developments being observed.

“Managers and supervisors who act contrary to the SOP will be in violation of the department’s code of conduct and may be subjected to disciplinary processes,” he said.

He added that it then becomes critical that all matters reported to the department must be tested.

Weekend Argus

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