Silent prison visits

2017-02-28 12:14
Rights group says the inmates are being denied their right to communicate with visitors.

Rights group says the inmates are being denied their right to communicate with visitors. (File)

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Speakers have been removed from New Prison and prisoners cannot communicate with their visitors.

Disallowing inmates the right to communicate with their families during visits is a serious violation of prisoners’ rights, according to the South African Prison Organisation (Sapo), reacting to information received by The Witness that the speakers had been removed.

Sapo president Frank Mbedzi said that inmates could suffer from mental anguish — a state where inmates have questions, but there are no answers.

“This issue will be raised with the minister [Michael Masutha] and we are going to conduct our own investigation,” he said.

Sapo is a human rights organisation that guards against the violation of human rights in prisons and is the voice of inmates.

Mbedzi said it is up to the prison management to ensure that there other means for inmates and families to communicate during this time.

“They must give them an opportunity to have a contact visit under supervision if the speakers are not working because it is not their fault.

“We understand as an organisation that contact visits are for the inmates who have been classified.

“They can use public phones as every correctional centre is supposed to have them,” said Mbedzi.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Correctional Services confirmed the removal of speakers.

Spokesperson Thulani Mdluli said it was not clear when the new speakers would be installed.

“The technical problem hindered communication between visitors, detainee and B group inmates. We then notified visitors and inmates beforehand that there will be a renewal of the sound system and [they] are frequently notified to date,” he said.

Mdluli said they had not received any complaints.

“The only affected inmates in this issue are non-contact classified inmates; nonetheless, we cannot hamper inmates to receive allowed items from their visitors.

“The renewal is still under way with the hope that it shall be totally installed soon,” he said.

Mdluli added: “We want to apologise for any inconvenience it may have caused, and also emphasise again to all those affected that they must co-operate with us until the new sound system is properly installed and in a good working condition.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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