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SA Prisons open for visits again but strict rules apply

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correctional facilities

After months of not having any contact with friends and relatives, South Africa’s inmates will be pleased to know that The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has reviewed its Covid-19 risk-adjusted strategy and decided to once again allow face-to-face visits (no-contact) with inmates.

“Inmate visits to correctional centres and remand detention centres shall be permitted under strict conditions, observing COVID-19 health protocols, as well as departmental Standard Operating Procedures.”

The department said this in a statement on Monday.

This comes after the number of daily Covid-19 cases decreased, indicating that the country has reached its peak of the infection. This resulted in the president announcing the beginning of Alert Level 2 on the 18th of August.

Of course, there are strict regulations in place to prevent another spike in infections in correctional facilities. 

  1. All visitors must wear face masks during visits. 
  2. Each inmate will be allowed one visit per calendar month. Also, only one visitor is allowed per inmate per session and no physical contact may take place.
  3. Visitors must phone at least 48 hours beforehand to arrange the visit. 
  4. On the day of the visit - visitors must arrive at least 30 minutes before their appointment.
  5. Inmates will be allowed to receive items, as per their privilege group and as prescribed in the policy but all items must be examined and decontaminated beforehand.

When to visit

Facilities that house both sentenced and imprisoned detainees - depending on the number of inmates - may receive visits on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays (excluding public holidays).

Other sentenced offenders will be allowed visits on Wednesdays, Thursdays, weekends and public holidays.

Visits will be permitted at 9 am and 3 pm on the scheduled days.

However, no one will be allowed to enter the facility without an appointment. 

“We rely on members of the public to be honest during screening in order to prevent any potential infections and cross-contamination.

“Those who have been in contact with COVID-19 positive cases must indicate, as that will allow our health care practitioners to conduct extensive screening, which includes taking of vital signs. It is important to note that provision of false information is a criminal offence,” the department said.

Similarly, meetings between legal practitioners and inmates must be arranged beforehand, with no physical contact allowed during the visit.

The department said that, as with all other visitors to facilities, lawyers must make appointments with the head of the centre to see their clients and must provide proof of identity. 

For pressing matters, lawyers and inmates can speak over the phone but they will need to get approval from the head of the centre.

“As restrictions have been eased across the country, DCS is constantly monitoring the public health situation in each correctional centre, including community transmissions, and take decisions accordingly, based on the risk levels.

“If at any given time, there are new or suspected cases of COVID-19 at a facility or unforeseen circumstances at the premises, this could affect visitation. Those planning a visit should always confirm their visit with the relevant correctional centre before travelling.”

The department ended by saying that its main priority is still the health and safety of officials, inmates and the public.

“We will therefore continue to monitor the situation and adjust safety measures and operating procedures where necessary.” 

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