Three inmates and two Botswana Prison Service officers have died due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), as infections are set to rapidly rise.
The Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Kagiso Mmusi revealed this recently in Parliament when presenting his ministry’s 2021-2022 recurrent and development budget proposals. He said as of March 15, 2021, the Prison Service had recorded a total of 1,568 COVID-19 cases with a pleasing 1,430 inmates having had recovered.
“135 cases remain active and regrettably three deaths were recorded. Regarding prison officers, a total of 162 COVID-19 cases were recorded out of which 138 have recovered while 22 remain active with two deaths recorded,” he said. Mmusi stated that the Prison Service like the rest of the nation has been hit by the afflictive effects of COVID-19. However, the minister revealed that they have adopted and implemented risk assessment and mitigation measures aimed at helping to prevent the spread of the pandemic in prisons.
“These include the establishment of three quarantines in Francistown, Lobatse and Kanye and the screening of officers and visitors and in some cases the temporary suspension of visitations to prisons and closure of workshops,” Mmusi said. Regarding the rehabilitation of inmates, he said the Defence ministry is working towards the finalisation of a national offender rehabilitation policy. He said the objectives of the policy are amongst others to provide guidance for the design and implementation of prisoner rehabilitation programmes and to ensure compliance with international conventions that the country has ratified or signed.
Mmusi started that the Prison Service is also developing a food security strategy and the Defence ministry was still consulting with relevant sectors with the hope of finalising the strategy during the financial year 2021-2022.
He added the strategy is expected to reduce expenditure on prisoner rations, complement the national offender rehabilitation policy and contribute to the national food basket.
Addressing prison security, Mmusi conceded that the Prison Service has not achieved its target of zero escape. He said 15 escapees were recorded from April 1, 2020, to January 12, 2021, compared to eight escapees in the same period last year.
He stated that all of the 15 escapees have been recaptured with the majority of them recorded from Moshupa Boys Prison.
He disclosed that as of March 15, 2021, the number of prisoners held in jail facilities was 3,835, which represented a 4.7 percent decrease from 4,026 in the same period last year.
He attributed the decline to a decrease in the number of illegal immigrants and the early release of prisoners through the Presidential pardon of April 9, 2020, as a measure to curb the spread of the COVI-19 pandemic.