Mbabane: No chance!
That is the official stance of His Majesty’s Correctional Services (HMCS) regarding the release of inmates who are currently serving jail time amid the relentless deadly corona virus.
Gugulethu Dlamini, HMCS Public Relations Officer, Gugulethu Dlamini has stated that Eswatini will not emulate the other countries which took a step to release incarcerated convicts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dlamini said the public should be thankful that none of the prisoners in all the jail facilities in the country have contracted the deadly virus, adding that there is no need to release them because they are not at high risk of contracting the virus.
Dlamini said by virtue of being incarcerated, prisoners are isolated from mingling with the public who are more vulnerable to contract the coronavirus due to the relative freedom of movement. “It might help to know that prisoners are safer from contracting and spreading the virus, which continue to spread almost every day.
Buy the time of this publication , confirmed cases were standing at 333 and 229 recoveries, with only 3 deaths.
Dlamini said serving a jail sentence could be seen as a punitive measure, but at the hieght of the global pandemic, it should be seen as a safe haven. She said unlike other countries including the Republic of South Africa, where prisoners serving petty crimes were released by that country’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, last month, they will not release any prisoner, adding that they are on high alert and are closely monitoring those showing flu like symptoms and take them to health facilities when necessary.
“As everyone might be in the know; we have health care centres in all the prisons in the country where prisoners are attended to and treated,” said Dlamini. She said prisons are equipped with the necessary resources like test kits and masks, which are used by the prisoners for maximum protection.
Lessons on Covid-19
The public relations officer went on to say that they frequently conduct lessons on Covid-19, and the convicts have agreed that it is a national crisis hence they need to be protected.
Make Sibeko*, whose son was arrested and convicted for a string of house breaking and theft cases said while she is looking forward to her son’s liberation, she is not that much worried because he is safe from contracting the virus. “I last visited my son in February before government resorted to banning prison visits, and I was happy that he looked healthy, and I am even confident that he is safe from the virus,” said Sibeko, who added that she gets updates from prison officials on the welfare of her son.
On the other hand, in South Africa, correctional facilities have had severe outbreaks of Covid-19 infections among inmates and correctional services personnel, which led to the president, Cyril Ramaphosa, authorising the release of 19 000 prisoners – out of a population of 155 000, in March.
Those released included awaiting-trial inmates, who had committed so-called soft crimes, and non-violent offenders, all of whom would be out on parole. The prisoners included incarcerated in correctional facilities considered high risk for the infection of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
The president said the parole dispensation would apply only to “low-risk inmates who have passed their minimum detention period or will approach this period in the coming five years”.
“This dispensation excludes inmates sentenced to life imprisonment or serving terms for specified other serious crimes, including sexual offences, murder and attempted murder, gender-based violence and child abuse,” said the presidency.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko issued that this measure was taken in accordance with a call by the UN to recuse inmate populations to combat the spread of the virus in correctional facilities.
“The president has taken this step in response to a call by the UN to all countries to reduce prison populations so that social distancing and self-isolation conditions can be observed during this period,” issued the president’s office.
* Not their real names