COVID-19 IN THE PRISON ENVIRONMENT

SHARE   |   Thursday, 23 April 2020   |   By Ricardo Kanono
Kelemi Kelemi

1. The world over, prisons are classified as high risk settings. Convicted prisoners and

persons remanded are therefore among the most vulnerable to viral contagion. This

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is primarily due to congestion in prisons which makes it difficult to practice social

distancing. Hygiene standards are also wanting in these environments which makes

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adherence to protocols recommended by the Ministry of Health and Wellness

(MoHW); which require the frequent washing of hands with soap and or sanitizing

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a challenge, thereby exposing prisoners and those who work there to exponential risk

of infection. This is also true for COVID-19. There is therefore need to proactively

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take steps to mitigate the outbreak of COVID-19 in our prisons as the potential to

spread is infinitely higher.

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2. The most significant and effective means of risk reduction in prisons is decongestion.

BONELA therefore commends His Excellency, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and the

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Botswana Prison Service (BPS) for firstly limiting movement into prisons by

suspending visits to prisoners and secondly, by decongesting prisons by granting

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Presidential Pardons to 149 convicted prisoners, third and lastly, by committing to

testing the released prisoners before they rejoin society.

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3. BONELA calls on Government - through the BPS and MoHW to put in place a triage

system to assess individual risk including screening of BPS employees to mitigate the

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outbreak of the virus.

4. BONEA encourages the BPS to compliment this move by ensuring that allowance is

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made for prisoners to comply with the requisite hygiene protocols by availing clean

water and soap, ensuring that surfaces are cleaned and disinfected at least once a day,

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and that there is access to information on precautionary measures, available services

and status of the outbreak.

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5. Furthermore, BONELA urges BPS to ready themselves for an outbreak by ensuring that

they can provide adequate isolation for the infected, including training staff to

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mitigate risk and acquiring the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to

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prevent transmission.



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