The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has reviewed its COVID-19 risk-adjusted strategy, with visits to inmates at the country’s correctional centres now permitted.
“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,” said the department in a statement on Monday.
This follows the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the country move to alert level 2, effective from 18 August 2020.
“It is critical for members of the public to observe that visits are limited to one non-contact visit per inmate per calendar month, and only one visitor per inmate at a time,” DCS said.
According to the department, bookings must be pre-arranged at least 48-hours prior to the intended visit to ensure proper planning.
“As a result, no visits will be allowed without prior appointment. Only visitors with face masks, as per the approved name list, will be allowed access.”
Visitors must arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the commencement of the scheduled visit time.
Inmates will be allowed to receive items, as per their privilege group and as prescribed in the policy.
Visits will be permitted to take place between 9am and 3pm on visit days.
At centres housing both sentenced and remand categories, and depending on the number of inmates, remand detainees may receive visits on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, excluding public holidays; whereas, sentenced offenders will be allowed visits on Wednesdays, Thursdays, weekends and public holidays.
“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 offense,” the department said.
Consultation visits between legal practitioners and inmates will be non-contact and shall observe COVID-19 health protocols and operating procedures, as determined by DCS.
The department said as prescribed, legal practitioners will be expected to make prior arrangements with the head of the centre, and must have proof of identity.
On urgent matters, legal representatives and inmates may communicate telephonically after approval from the head of the centre has been obtained and where circumstances and resources permit.
“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 said its top priority remains 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,” it said.