Rwanda: COVID-19 - Prisons Service Reassures on Inmates' Safety

Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS) has reassured that the safety of inmates is under full control and regular supervision is being observed to prevent the spread of coronavirus pandemic in prisons across the country.

Since March 21, the nation went on lockdown and the government has since announced strong preventive measures among which closure of all non-essential businesses, while travel and movements outside people's homes were suspended for a period of two weeks.

Public and private institutions were also advised to ensure their employees work from home to avoid the spread among the staff.

Since the government announced a temporary lockdown, prisons have since restricted families and friends from visiting inmates until further notice, while RCS immediately suspended income-generating activities undertaken by inmates.

Hilary Sengabo, the Spokesperson of Rwanda Correctional Services, told The New Times that prisons are under full control and tough precautionary measures have been made to ensure the safety of inmates.

"Of course visits in prisons have been suspended until further notice as the health safety of inmates and our staff remains our priority. However, prisons have set up a public telephone to ensure communication continues between inmates and their families," Sengabo said in an interview.

During the lockdown, prisons also allow relatives and friends to send money to inmates via mobile money using designated telephone lines so that they can buy whatever they want in the prisons canteens.

The lockdown has also seen prisons' wardens limited from making movements outside the prison facilities while on security duty.

As of Monday, March 31, Rwanda has so far registered 75 coronavirus cases

However, no case has been recorded in any of Rwanda's 13 prisons.

Apart from visit restrictions at prisons, RCS regularly supervises handwashing in prisons to ensure the hygiene of inmates, as one of the most effective measures to prevent the virus from spreading.

"People should therefore not worry about the safety of inmates because no case of coronavirus has been detected among prisons yet. We are aware of the threats caused by the virus but it under full control," he said.

Meanwhile, Sengabo said that when they receive new inmates, they are put in isolation for fourteen days during which tests are made on them before they join others.

In case inmates complete their sentences, they are allowed to return home but are advised on how they can behave before they join their families.

"The lockdown does not mean that inmates are forced to remain in prisons just because there is travel restriction. When their sentence is over, they are free to go home and we help them in the process because we have cars that transport them," he said.

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