Article by Lindiwe Karosa
South Africa’s worst nightmare may just become a reality as the numbers of confirmed positive cases in the prison system are now over 100. With about 160 000 inmates at prisons under the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, the risk of rapid spread in their confined living conditions is high. How then, will prisoners be protected from this pandemic?
On 18 March 2020, all visits to South African prisons were suspended for 30 days to prevent the Coronavirus from infiltrating correctional facilities. Since the extension of the lockdown, these conditions have remained in place however, were Correctional Services officials subjected to stringent conditions that would prevent employees from infecting prisoners?
Worcester Correctional Facility in the Western Cape is the latest facility to fall victim to the pandemic. The Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo are so far the only provinces with affected facilities and have now reached 111 with 57 being inmates.
The already overwhelmingly crowded prison system has seen calls from human rights bodies and concerned citizens that qualifying prisoners should be released now to lessen the numbers. Poor sanitation has not made this situation any better considering that good hygiene practice is one of the best preventative measures for the virus. The Department however, is confident that it can control this growing problem.
In Gauteng, Minister of Justice & Correctional Services Ronald Lamola visited Johannesburg Prison that is the most populated in the country. The purpose of this visit was to launch a screening campaign to prevent the risk of internal spread.