Jails Overcrowded By Recent Looting Unrest

Over three thousand people were arrested during the looting unrest which took place in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces in the past weeks. The Department of Correctional Services has said that prisons are now overcrowded. 

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The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) now has concerns over prison overcrowding as a result of the unrest chaos which took place in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Over three thousand people were arrested during the looting chaos as DCS spokesperson, Singabakho Nxumalo, shared concerns as it creates a great risk of Covid-19 infections in prison cells.

There are big numbers coming to our facilities and what aggravates the situation is that they come in big numbers at once, therefore it doesn’t give us sufficient time for preparations.

Nxumalo explained that Correctional Centres are not only accommodation but nutrition and other basic needs need to be budgeted for as well.

The DCS spokesperson said inmates need to be moved from Gauteng and KZN in order to minimize overcrowding.

The department says there is a process of isolating new inmates for a period of two weeks for screening. The examination process is necessary due to Covid-19 safety measures.

The Minister of Justice, Ronald Lamola, on Wednesday last week briefed Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice, where he revealed that DCS facilities were “stretched due to overcrowding.”

Lamola however mentioned that no criminal will evade punishment on the basis of prison overcrowding:

So honourable members, rest assured that no one who took part in the acts of criminality will evade justice. Our institutions are working together to expedite all matters before them. Justice will take its course and the rule of law will reign supreme.

The main concerns are also of Covid-19 infections that could spread uncontrollable and cause severe consequences.

Lamola also told the committee that the acts of violence witnessed fell within the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist And Related Activities Act. He said these are serious charges and those who are found guilty should be used as an example.

The DCS hasn’t particularly came up with a clear plan of how the process of moving prisoners will work, bearing in mind that the country still battles with Covid-19 virus.

Building new facilities could take time and temporary structures are not designed to contain criminals due to security issues.

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