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Ex-prisoners beg govt to allow prison visits

Nthatuoa Koeshe

AN association of ex-prisoners has pleaded with the prison authorities and the National COVID-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) to allow people to visit their imprisoned relatives and provide them with essentials like food, medicines and toiletries.

NACOSEC banned prison visits as part of measures to prevent the spread of the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic which has so far infected 1066 people and caused 31 deaths in Lesotho.

However, the Crime Prevention, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of ex-Prisoners Association (CRROA) wants the ban lifted to allow family members to take essentials such as food and medicines to their incarcerated relatives.

The association argues that although the country has to act against Covid-19, inmates have been adversely affected by the ban on prison visits as these were a much-needed source of essentials that the prisons are incapable of providing.

CRROA chairperson Mothobi Mothobi said while the ban could help stem the Covid-19 infections, there was a real danger of prisoners dying of other illnesses triggered by their inability to get medical supplies they had been getting from relatives and friends who visited them.

“Prisoners are no longer allowed visitors who would normally bring them food, medication and cosmetics,” Mr Mothobi said.

“We understand that the ban was imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic but this also violates prisoners’ rights.

“The food and medicines are especially important for those prisoners with certain illnesses. We fear that the ban will only make things difficult for prisoners.

“Prisons are already experiencing challenges in feeding the inmates and these restrictions will only make things more difficult for inmates. They are only being given an unsatisfactory diet of just pap and peas.

“This means if you don’t eat that kind of food, you go hungry as it is the only meal available.

“Sick prisoners are no longer be able to get the special diets recommended by doctors which they were getting from their relatives. They are also unable to get their medication.”

Mr Mothobi suggested that the ban on visits was an unnecessary draconian measure as visitors were previously screened before being allowed to see their jailed relatives.

“The authorities used to screen visitors for Covid-19 before allowing them to see inmates.

“There was never a case of Covid-19 reported in the prisons, meaning the screening precautions were effective. We therefore, do not understand why that had to change and the ban on visits introduced.”

Lesotho Correctional Services spokesperson Superintendent Neo Mopeli said the ban on visits would remain in place as it had been prescribed by NACOSEC as part of measures to combat Covid-19.

He said they would continue giving prisoners the necessary care including allowing them to visit hospitals for medical attention if need be. He however, denied that prisoners were not being properly fed.


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