Following the shocking attack that took place at the St Alban Prison on Monday, the South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (SAPOHR) has called on appropriate authorities to allow inmates to start using cellphones.
According to SAPOHR, allowing inmates to make use of cellphones will not only pave way for prompt and imminent warnings of attack and violence, it will also curtail unnecessary deaths in prisons.
SAPOHR president Golden Miles Bhud, maintained that permitting cellphones in prison would greatly help in assisting with intelligence gathering in prisons across the country.
“We are saying these are the gadgets that can still prevent the unnecessary deaths of prisoners and prison officers, and the unnecessary, illegal things happening in this institution,” he said.
Bhud also criticized the Department of Correctional Services and the Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services (JCIS) for downplaying prisoners’ rights, and warned if nothing is done, violence will continue to take place in prisons. He pleaded with the appropriate not to turn a deaf ear to the pathetic working conditions of prison officials and authorities.
On Monday, an attack which later turned into a “free-for-all” fight erupted after offenders started assaulting prison officials at St Albans correctional center. The stabbing spree reportedly started in the dining area of the prison while inmates were having breakfast.
The fight, which saw more than 20 people injured also drew the attention of Emergency services, a medical helicopter and the police’s K9 unit to the chaotic scene.
Eastern Cape Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo, who also weighed in on the matter, said that at least 26 people were injured, 10 of which were in a critical condition at hospital. Among them were seven prison warders and some of them were badly injured.
Saddened, Bhudu insisted that the attack could have been avoided if the Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services – one of three authorities investigating the triggers of the attack – was on top of intelligence gathering in the country’s prisons.
Meanwhile, DA spokesman on correctional services, James Selfe, promised that the party would request that the department of correctional services conduct a thorough investigation into the tragic death and injury.
It is paramount to note that in most prisons, inmates are forbidden from possessing mobile phones. Security concerns are often cited for why cellphones are forbidden in prisons.
However, there are reported cases where cellphones in prisons were used to organize work stoppages for prison labour between prisons.
Regardless of that, many argued that the use of cell phones in prison shouldn’t be forbidden because it offers prisoners the opportunity to communicate with family and loved ones.