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More inmates are testing positive for Covid-19 after the mass arrests of looters

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In the week of July 18 to 25, 336 inmates and 256 officials tested positive for Covid-19 in prisons across the country.

Picture: Steve Lawrence/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Johannesburg – The prisoners’ rights organisation, South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (Sapohr), says it wants the government to establish Specialised Courts in order to combat the spread of Covid-19 in jails, after the mass arrests of looters last week.

During the 2010 World Cup the government set up specialised courts, which resulted in cases linked to the event being expedited.

On Tuesday, Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said since the arrival at their facilities of suspects arrested for looting, more inmates had started testing positive for Covid-19.

“In the week of July 18 to 25, 336 inmates and 256 officials tested positive for Covid-19 in prisons across the country. Since we started receiving suspects arrested for looting, we have more inmates testing positive compared to officials,” Nxumalo said.

However, Sapohr national spokesperson Golden Miles Bhudu said the figures may be even higher.

According to Bhudu, the Department of Correctional Services doesn’t test and screen new intakes into the system, which further aggravates the infections and spreading of the pandemic behind bars.

“The mass arrests and incarceration of those arrested for looting has put a strain on the limited accommodation spaces in the Department of Correctional Services. Prisons in Johannesburg and Westville, in KZN, have forever been massively overpopulated, and are now being further overburdened with the latest intake,” he said.

Over 3 000 alleged looters have been arrested, with Westville Prison having the highest number of remanded detainees.

The Minister of Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, launched the vaccination roll-out for Correctional Services officials and inmates last week.

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