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The release of low-risk offenders has helped ease COVID-19 outbreak in prisons

So far, just under 7,000 of 19,000 prisoners have been released on the special parole dispensation to combat the spread of the coronavirus in prisons.

FILE: The correctional services department’s Logan Maistry said at least 1,458 of the COVID-19 cases within SA's prison staff and inmates are currently active. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – With prisons identified as potential sites for the rapid spread of COVID-19, the correctional services department says the release of low-risk inmates has been able to mitigate an outbreak.

So far, just under 7,000 of 19,000 prisoners have been released on the special parole dispensation to combat the spread of the coronavirus in prisons.

The department says from the 4,154 confirmed cases, 65% of inmates and officials have recovered from the virus.

A breakdown of the figures shows at least 2,548 officials have tested positive for COVID-19 while 1,606 inmates have also contracted the virus.

The correctional services department’s Logan Maistry said at least 1,458 of those cases are currently active.

“We are making progress in terms of the disaster management response strategy, recorded recovery rate of approximately 65%. As part of the disaster management response, we are continuing to ensure that we reduce the number of active cases.”

By reducing the number of inmates in facilities and ramping up screening and testing including for new offenders Maistry said the department's COVID-19 response plan has reduced the possibility of an outbreak in prisons, for now.

“The number of confirmed coronavirus cases for inmates represents 1,02% of the country’s total inmate population. The department is also making progress in placing low-risk inmates on parole released 6,791 across SA. This is a meticulous process that involves victim-offender mediation and the taking DNA samples by Saps.”

Apart from low-risk offenders, inmates with comorbidities, the elderly, and pregnant women have been prioritised and regarded as most vulnerable to COVID-19.