Coronavirus nightmare stalks congested Juba Central Prison
By Kitab Unango
The ever-surging cases of the novel coronavirus left the National Prison Service authorities thinking of what could become of the inmates’ health situation.
The Juba Central Prison, one of the three main prison facilities in the country with a capacity to accommodate a maximum of 400 people, is hosting over one thousand inmates according to a senior prison officer.
Maj. Gen. Anthony Oliver Legge, Director of Public Relations and Information at the National Prisons Service said the overcrowding at such a limited facility makes inmates prone to SARS-Cov-2, the virus that spreads COVID-19.
Legge said maintaining social distancing amongst prisoners, one of the recommended measures to curb the spread of the deadly disease, was very difficult in the shells.
The director lamented that such a condition was scary adding that it would be worse and unmanageable should the virus get its way into prisons if nothing is done to contain it.
“Other rules like wearing face masks, regular hand washing is possible because we are getting support from organizations such as UNMISS and even government,” he said. “But the prison is congested. The number of inmates is more than the original capacity of the prisons. Keeping social distancing is impossible.”
Legge revealed that other regional prisons, including Wau Central Prisons and Malakal, were facing the same challenge, prompting authorities to consider freeing inmates to reduce overcrowding and avert the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have written to all States’ Prisons Directors to submit a list of inmates with minor sentences whose behaviors have changed positively to the headquarters so that their release is processed to reduce the number of prisoners perhaps this may help prisoners conform to social distancing rule, said Legge.
In December 2019, President Salva Kiir pardoned several good moral prisoners in a bid to decongest Juba Central Prison, but people convicted of crimes kept flowing in.
Legge said the prison authorities were considering construction of three regional prison facilities with minimum standard as a solution to overcrowding but financial constraint hindered the plan.
“We have the plan to build more prison facilities one each in greater Bahr El Ghazal, Greater Equatoria, and Greater Upper Nile but we do not have resources at the moment,” he added.
South Sudan confirmed its first coronavirus case on April 5th, 2020. Since then, the number of cases has been ballooning, with over 2000 people infected and more than 40 deaths recorded.