Johannesburg – Prisons have been reduced by almost 16% as correctional services tried to buck the rise of the 105 lives lost in the system due to the spread of Covid-19.
On Thursday, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) said it boasted an 87% recovery rate throughout its 243 facilities countrywide as of Wednesday since March when it began implementing its plans to stem the spread of the coronavirus when it broke out.
In total, 6 365 officials and inmates contracted the virus since March, 4 073 of whom were employees and 2 292 were prisoners, with 5 582 recoveries.
The majority of infections were in Gauteng (897 with 34 deaths), Eastern Cape (826 with 19 deaths) and the Western Cape (742 with 24 deaths).
In May, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a special release programme to reduce overcrowding in the country’s facilities, which was at roughly 30% overpopulated at the time, with the DCS saying yesterday that 9955 inmates were released as of Wednesday.
The DCS said yesterday the majority of those released were over the age of 60 and were “low-risk offenders”.
“Since the special parole dispensation does not remit sentences, these offenders were placed out subject to placement conditions, which must be complied with until they serve their sentences in full,” the DCS said.
The Star has reported on several violent protests in prisons nationally since April, with scores of inmates being beaten up following complaints of human rights abuses while the department was implementing its safety measures.
These violent strikes include one this week at Johannesburg Correctional Centre’s mother and child section, where objects were set alight during an uproar after a 6-month-old baby girl died allegedly due to DCS negligence.
But the department slammed these protests yesterday, saying they were being instigated by troublemakers, who wanted to blackmail authorities into releasing them earlier than their due dates.
“A few inmates, and some organisations which claim to represent inmates, have unfortunately resorted to exaggerating Covid-19 cases in correctional centres in an effort to instigate inmates.
“With regards to such instigations, the majority of inmates have ignored this agenda as they are familiar with the preventative measures in all our centres, resulting in 254 active inmate cases across the country,” the DCS explained.
“A picture is being painted as a chaotic correctional centre environment with the hope that the public will be mobilised and pushed for mass releases. It must be emphasised that such will never happen. Only those who qualify will be considered for parole placement,” it added.
The DCS said one of the preventative measures it utilised included the deployment of 700 additional nurses.