A lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), testing, the impossibility of social distancing, and cold showers are challenges that prisoners are facing at the Johannesburg Correctional Centre (also known as “Sun City”) daily.
This is because of the rise of numbers concerning Covid-19 in South African prisons.
Inmates at Sun City have gone on a hunger strike since last week because of this.
One of the prisoners stated that he fears for his life as he has seen other inmates dying, he has been sentenced for 20 years and has served 7 years of the 20.
He stated that he is in Medium A section and three prisoners have died in the previous two weeks because of Covid-19 and the prison management is trying to keep it a secret.
The prisoner stated that there is no medical assistance on-site and that he had to buy his own mask because they are not provided with any.
In May 2020, when prisons in South Africa started battling Covid-19, the Department of Correctional Services spokesperson, Singabakho Nxumalo, stated that the situation was under control and that the department had plans to control the spread of the virus.
The plans included having a portable hospital at the prisons and to make cells available for those who needed to be in quarantine.
The inmates state that this has still not happened.
Another inmate who has been at Sun City since 2013 stated that he had heard of 10 inmates who had died of Covid-19.
There is however a difference of numbers given by inmates and by the correctional service.
The inmates also stated that they have been showering with cold water since March and they are concerned that this may put them at a higher risk of getting the virus.
On the 18th of July, 2020 prisoners from Sun City Section B started a hunger strike, demanding to be tested for the virus.
They stated that in Section C and B in a cell that is meant to contain 20 people there are now about 50 people, this has led to prisoners sharing beds.
The Department of Correctional Services spokesperson, Logan Maistry, denied that the situation is out of control.
He stated that only 18 inmates had died.
The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services stated that, by law, correctional services were meant to report all prison deaths to it.
Between January to the 27th of July 2020 a total of 315 prisoners have died nationally, 268 from natural causes, and 47 from unnatural causes.