Warder stabbed with a bone

2012-11-19 00:00

OVERCROWDING and a changed shift system have been blamed for an incident in which a warder was stabbed at Sevontein Prison, just outside Pietermaritzburg, yesterday.

Provincial Correctional Services spokesperson Nokuthula Zikhali said the incident happened at about 7 am when prison officials were serving breakfast to inmates.

George Diedericks, the acting director on duty for the weekend, was stabbed five times with a sharpened bone.

Diedericks, who has 27 years’ service with the department, was taken to hospital and treated for wounds to his back and ear. He was later discharged and would not discuss the incident.

Zikhali said the department would take action against the inmate, who began serving a six-year term for house breaking last year.

She denied the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union’s (Popcru) claims that there are security risks due to a lack of personnel to oversee the inmates.

Popcru blamed the low staff-to-prisoner ratio for the incident, saying the situation was exacerbated by a new shift system which reduced the number of warders further.

Provincial secretary Kwenza Nxele said the number of attacks on warders at Sevontein had increased since a recent shift change, which left fewer warders on duty.

“Members have been complaining that they are left exposed and in a vulnerable situation. This division of the staff has left half of the staff on duty than previously. These warders have to escort prisoners during meal times, to visits from people outside the prison, handle rehabilitation programmes and on weekends they have to escort prisoners to sporting activities,” he said.

Nxele said the facility was already operating at double its capacity of about 400 prisoners and would have to cater for more in January from arrests during the holidays.

Koos Gerber, acting director of communications in the national Department of Correctional Services, said that overcrowding and the low ratio of warders to inmates was “an obvious issue” and that the department would investigate the attack on Diedericks.

“The local department and head of the prison will have to investigate the incident. Thereafter we need to find out what caused the incident and how we can prevent this from happening. Across the country we have a shortage of prison warders to deal with the number of inmates, but we will never be able to have one warder for each inmate,” he said.

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