Casper Madihlaba, an inmate at Block 3 section in Modderbee Correctional Facility, together with his fellow offenders decided to use what they have to produce face masks to protect themselves and others against the spread of the vicious Covid-19.
Out of torn prison fitted sheets and shoe laces, four offenders produced 30 cloth face masks a day using their own hands. “We cannot fold our arms and wait for Government to provide us with all the resources. We are using what we have at our disposal to combat the spread of the virus, and to maintain stability and environmental hygiene in our correctional facility,” said Madihlaba. This foursome trained, and polished their sewing skills, at the Modderbee Skills Development Centre.
Kagiso Boshalelo, who is also part of the group, is determined to transfer his knowledge to other offenders for a larger production of masks that will be given to all inmates at the Modderbee facility. They aim to also reach out to the most vulnerable offenders, those who have underlying conditions and the elderly to prevent them from the risk of contracting the virus. Boshalelo said that they make sure that all masks are washed every day before sleeping time.
Like all South Africans, the announcement of the national lockdown and suspension of visits to correctional centres created uncertainty amongst offenders. Offenders depend on their families for specific items such as additional toiletries including moral support, and, especially for those who are studying, the interruption was unpleasant.
Effective communication and open dialogue to create clear understanding of the Covid-19 pandemic helped the inmates to quickly adjust to the new expectations. Officials were proactive in creating a supportive environment for offenders and their families, to avoid anxiety and possible unrest inside the centres.
Mr Vusi Sibanyoni, an official at Block 3 section, took the initiative to buy a world call card for R150 to assist 66 offenders in his section to each make a three-minute telephone call to their families. The call was meant to give offenders an opportunity to assure their loved ones that they were doing well, and make them understand the reasons behind the suspension of visits in correctional facilities. “My colleagues and I commit to supporting offenders to the best of our ability, to assist with rehabilitation, especially during this challenging time and help combat the spread of Covid-19,” said Sibanyoni.
Officials and offenders are grateful for the support provided by the area management, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the National Health Laboratories for screening and testing. The facility has also been decontaminated. Block 3 section is determined to support DCS in fighting the pandemic and sharing their best practices.
DCS needs every individual to help this process.