In­mates go on hunger strike

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - NEWS - NORMA WILDEN­BOER STAFF RE­PORTER

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.

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