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Over 6 000 inmates paroled so far to curb virus spread in prisons

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According to the Department of Correctional Services, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases within the sector stood at close to 4 000

File picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

THE DEPARTMENT of Correctional Services (DCS) said on Wednesday that 6 128 inmates had thus far been released on parole to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in prisons. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in May that 19 000 “low-risk” inmates would be placed on parole over a 10-week period. The president said the decision was taken after a call made by the United Nations (UN) to reduce prison populations to curb the spread of the virus amongst crowded facilities.

“We have released a total of 6 128 inmates thus far. This requires a meticulous process which involves victim-offender mediation and the taking of DNA samples by the South African Police Service,” said the DCS, as part of a justice, crime prevention and security cluster (JCPS) briefing. 

“Inmates who are released are those who have undergone the relevant rehabilitation programmes aimed at correcting their offending behaviour.”

The DCS said it was continuing with the implementation of its Covid-19 Disaster Management Response Strategy to curtail the “ravages of the pandemic” across its 243 correctional centres nationwide. 

The strategy had enabled the well-being of inmates and officials, it said. 

“All inmates have access to quality health care in line with the provisions of the United Nations Minimum Standards for the Treatment of Prisoners or, as they are called, the Nelson Mandela Rules.”

According to the department, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases within the sector stood at 3 688 by Monday. Of these, 2 203 were officials and 1 485 inmates. The number of infections among inmates represented 1.03% of the total inmate population. 

“We have also recorded 2 235 recoveries, of which 1 231 cases are for inmates. Therefore, there are 239 active cases for inmates.”

Fifteen inmates and 31 officials had died due to the coronavirus, it said. 

“As DCS, we profoundly appreciate the fact that we have officials dedicated to flattening the curve of Covid-19 in our correctional facilities. We will continue working towards eliminating all active cases.”

The department also said it needed to clear up “misinformation” regarding the number of infections among inmates, which had been “exaggerated” by “some organisations” claiming to represent prisoners.

“We are taking measures to address this. With regards to such planned instigations, most inmates have ignored this agenda as they are familiar with the preventative measures in all our centres.

– African News Agency (ANA)