by Arlana Shikongo

INMATES detained at the Windhoek Correctional Facility say there are no measures at the prison to protect them from the new coronavirus.

INSIDERS … Some inmates at the Windhoek Central Correctional Facility congregated to see their warden on Tuesday morning. Some inmates are seen wearing masks. Photo: Henry Van Rooi

“We are under threat. We have been on lockdown since March, but we don’t even get soap,” an inmate who contacted The Namibian anonymously, said.

The inmate complained about overcrowding, a lack of temperature screening of prisoners, and no personal protective equipment for wardens and officers.
“We have no masks, no sanitisers, no gloves [and] when they come inspect they search without gloves or masks,” he said.

The Namibian visited the facility yesterday morning following these complaints.

The officer in charge at the facility, deputy commissioner Manfred Jatamunua, said the prison’s effort currently is to prevent the virus from penetrating its walls.

“We think the virus won’t come from in here. It’ll be brought in from outside,” Jatamunua said.

Recently, panic arose about adherence to lockdown regulations within prison facilities after two prison wardens tested positive for Covid-19 at Walvis Bay.
When visiting the facility yesterday morning, The Namibian observed visitors and officers being temperature-checked before entry.

All entry points were equipped with a hand-sanitising dispenser, and those inside the prison were hinged on a foot peddle to minimise direct contact.

“These are made in the prison shop. We have inmates who get trained in mechanics and soap-making. We even produce masks here which are donated outside,” Jatamunua said.

While hand sanitising was not strictly enforced upon the newspaper’s entry, Jatamunua said the conduct of visitors, warderns and officers is strictly monitored.

Visitors are asked about their recent travel history and symptoms such as coughing, a fever or sneezing.

“We make sure everyone is checked,” he said.

These measures are not strictly imposed on inmates as many of them roamed the facility without masks.

Jatamunua said the inmates in question have been inside the facility and have not been out since lockdown regulations were enforced in March.

“We have facilities for those inmates who, for example, go out to court or for trial, or new inmates coming in who have just been sentenced. We keep them there for 14 days to monitor for symptoms,” he said.

In a corner of the prison’s assessment and reception division, a cell is being converted into an isolation facility to accommodate any positive cases of Covid-19.

The room, which according to Jatamunua would usually accommodate eight bunk beds (16 inmates), was stripped down to hold only six metal-frame beds a few metres apart when The Namibian visited.

Jatamunou said the isolation facility is being set up in collaboration with and on the advice of the Ministry of Health and Social Services. While the room is bare with only six beds, he said the prison is awaiting medical-grade mattresses which can be sanitised.

“But we will start using the room as soon as we have a case. The cell is there for that purpose,” Jatamunou said.

The prison currently accommodates some 1 105 inmates, according to the final headcount on Monday evening.

At the onset of Namibia’s state of emergency in March, Cabinet stipulated that separate detention facilities should be provided for new incoming accused people or suspects, and that routine screening should be conducted before admission.

DIY HAND SANITISER … Entry points at the Windhoek Central Correctional Facility were all equipped with a make-shift hand sanitising device, propper on a foot-peddle intended to minimise touch.

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