Inmates go on hunger strike
THE DEPARTMENT of Correctional Services in the Northern Cape will not be “held ransom” by inmates threatening to embark on a hunger strike during the festive season.
This comes after 10 inmates at the Tswelopele Correctional Centre in Kimberley earlier this week indicated that they were going on a hunger strike, demanding that they be transferred back to Grootvlei Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein before Christmas.
The 10 inmates claim that they were part of a group of 24 inmates, all serving life sentences, who were temporarily transferred from Grootvlei to Tswelopele last month as part of a skills development programme.
Only 14 inmates were transferred back to Grootvlei once the programme concluded.
The remaining 10 inmates said that they had embarked on a hunger strike and were demanding that they be transferred back to Grootvlei before Christmas, so that family members would be able to visit them over the festive season.
However, Northern Cape Department of Correctional Services’ acting regional commissioner, Kenneth Ntombeni, said yesterday that the department would “not be held ransom” by inmates who threatened to go on a hunger strike.
He also denied that the inmates were part of any skills development programme and said that they were moved as a result of overcrowding.
“The department will not be made weak by threats of a hunger strike. Offenders should not think that prison is a hotel and they will serve their sentences wherever deemed necessary. We also want to remind prisoners that they have been sentenced to detention by the courts and they are not there voluntarily,” Ntombeni said.
He further explained that the inmates were transferred to Tswelopele as a result of overcrowding at Grootvlei, which is currently 155 percent full.
“We have a directive to ensure our prisons are not more than 150 percent full. As Grootvlei is currently 155 percent full we had no choice but to transfer the inmates to Tswelopele.”
Ntombeni said that he was aware of a situation where five inmates, who were not part of a skills development programme (a condition for parole), wanted to go on a hunger strike.
“If inmates decide to go on a hunger strike, they must notify us that they are planning to do so. If they do not eat they will be segregated from other inmates and only after 10 days (of not eating) will the hunger strike be recognised and be dealt with according to policy,” Ntombeni said.
He concluded by saying that that the department did not “owe” the inmates a transfer, saying that prison was not a “boarding house” where inmates could make any demands about where they wanted to serve their sentences.