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Prison stabbings spark lockdown

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Visitation hours were halted following an incident where three officials were stabbed by two inmates.

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FAMILY members and loved ones of inmates at Tswelopele Correctional Centre in Kimberley claim that their rights and those of the inmates were violated after they were turned away during visitation hours on the weekend.

Visitors said that they were shown the gate to the facility after spending only about five minutes with the inmates they had come to see.

According to the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), visitation hours were halted following an incident where three officials were stabbed by two inmates.

It was claimed that the incident followed after an inmate was denied a transfer to another facility. The spokesperson for the department, Joe Joseph, however, denied this yesterday.

“The allegation of a transfer of an offender to the North West is not true. The incident is still under investigation to establish the facts in relation to this unfortunate incident. It is common practice in the DCS that any correctional facility will operate on a total lockdown in cases of security emergencies, such as escapes, stabbings or riots,” said Joseph.

He said that the two inmates made use of self-made weapons during the attack on the officials.

“Three officials were stabbed during this unfortunate incident with sharpened self-made objects. The officials sustained head injuries and were treated at Gariep Mediclinic. The officials are recuperating at home and the psychologist and other employee assistance programme (EAP) members will conduct trauma counselling.”

Joseph said that the situation is currently calm and that the necessary action will be taken against the two inmates.

“The preliminary information indicates that the incident took place in K1 Unit. The offenders involved in the incident were segregated to the Intervention Unit and an internal disciplinary process is set for Thursday. A case management committee (CMC) degrading process will unfold as soon as disciplinary steps are finalised. A police criminal case will also be opened by the three officials.

“Visitations were discontinued on Saturday and continued on Sunday, November 18,” Joseph added.

Visitors said that they were not properly informed by the warders as to why visitation times were cut short on Saturday and were rudely told to evacuate the premises.

“We went to visit a family member on Saturday. Upon arriving at the facility and seeing our family member, we were told by warders to leave within about five minutes after arrival. We asked the warders what the reason was for the shortened visitation and they did not give us any explanation. We were told by warders at the gate that there was a shutdown and that they were not certain whether the situation will be back to normal the next week,” said one visitor.

Another visitor, Esra Januarie, pointed out that some visitors had travelled from as far as Bloemfontein. “It is not only local people who go to visit their loved ones. A family that was from Bloemfontein had to turn back following the shutdown.

“We understand that there might have been an incident that erupted but there should be communication from the officials on what is required from the public and they should inform us on the way forward,” said Januarie.

Other visitors indicated that it was unfair that all inmates were punished for the actions of those involved in the incident. The department, however, said it did not want to risk the safety of the public.