COVID-19 Hits F/Town Prison, Paralyses Justice System

Handbrake: COVID-19 cases at the Francistown Prison has affected court proceedings. PIC.KENNEDY RAMOKONE
Handbrake: COVID-19 cases at the Francistown Prison has affected court proceedings. PIC.KENNEDY RAMOKONE

FRANCISTOWN: The country’s prisons system suffered a heavy knock during the past week when some inmates at the Francistown Centre of Illegal Immigrants (FCII) tested positive for COVID-19.

The FCII, located at Gerald Estates, is partly used as a detention centre for asylum seekers and also as a prison facility by the Botswana Prison Service (BPS). The old Francistown Prison is currently used as a quarantine centre for new inmates on remand, with positive COVID-19 results, before they are transferred to FCII after the mandatory 14 days of quarantine.

In addition, the facility is also used as an isolation centre for accused persons who were on bail but the condition was revoked after conviction and sentence. Sources at FCII said nearly 100 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 when routine tests were conducted on July 24. Reports indicate FCII currently holds nearly 300 inmates. However, BPS did not respond to a questionnaire from The Monitor regarding the number of inmates at the facility and those that tested positive. Sources added that the outbreak at FCII poses serious dangers to inmates since the FCII is overcrowded.

The detection of COVID-19 last Monday at FCII led to inmates failing to attend scheduled court appearances at the Magistrate's Courts and High Court. BPS public relations officer, senior superintendent, Oagile Kojane acknowledged that coronavirus had reared its ugly head at FCII. “We confirm that on July 26, 2021, some prisoners could not attend scheduled court appearances.

As you have already stated in your questionnaire, consent was reached between relevant stakeholders as a precautionary measure in line with COVID-19 (health) protocols. It is true that during routine testing, some prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 at Francistown Prison and are still in isolation,” Kojane said. “Every prison has an isolation room where prisoners who test positive for COVID-19 are kept for observation and treatment. Furthermore, Kanye Prison was turned into an isolation centre to cater to prisons without enough isolation space. BPS has a robust COVID-19 plan in place to manage, prevent, and control the spread of the virus in prisons.” Two quarantine centres, Kojane noted, were set up in Francistown and Lobatse where newly admitted prisoners are kept until they are cleared of COVID-19 and released to their respective prisons as a preventative measure.

“The BPS continues to work closely with all relevant stakeholders such as District Health Management Teams for prevention and control of the virus in prison facilities. COVID-19 protocols are strictly adhered to in all our facilities, such as the provision of clean water and soap, hand sanitisers, wearing of masks, and ensuring disinfection of the facilities and escort vehicles. BPS will always commit to its mandate of safe custody of inmates including health care and rehabilitation of offenders entrusted in our care,” said Kojane.

Editor's Comment
Seamless Business Environment Needed Post-COVID

The country was also classified as the least corrupt in the world with strong anti-graft checks and balances. With these assurances, investors were guaranteed safety on their investments and returns. That is no longer the case. Several countries like Namibia, South Africa and Mauritius have done well over the years and overtaken Botswana as attractive places to do business.Therefore, when countries that Botswana is competing with for a piece of...

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