Safety measures stepped up to prevent Covid-19 transmission in jails
By STAFF REPORTERS
PRISONERS are now required to wear masks as part of precautionary measures to stop any transmission of the Covid-19 inside prison, an official says.
PNG Correctional Service Commissioner Stephen Pokanis said they were taking all precautionary measures but the biggest challenge was social distancing inside prisons.
On top of that, many of the 19 prisons around the country are currently overcrowded, holding more inmates than their maximum capacities.
The National Covid-19 Control Centre has supplied personal protection equipment for the 19 prisons, including 80,000 masks and 19,200 hand sanitisers.
But the items are yet to be distributed to the prisons.
In the meantime, prisoners at Buimo in Lae and Bomana in Port Moresby for example have sewn masks for themselves, the warders and their families.
“Buimo (in Lae) has already sewn 5,000 masks and the Morobe provincial government is supporting them,” Pokanis said.
“If you go up to Bomana (in Port Moresby), you will see everyone wearing masks they sewed.”
Pokanis said prisons in East and West New Britain and Manus had also sewn their masks. There are 5,121 inmates and 1,581 prison officers around the country.
At the Bihute prison in Goroka, Eastern Highlands, acting commander Tiro Kipoi said they would only accept newly-sentenced prisoners after they had been cleared of the Covid-19 by health authorities.
“New inmates referred to Bihute jail from the police station or the courthouse will undergo a Covid-19 test and only when cleared will be allowed into the jail compound,” he said.
Kipoi said there was no isolation facility at Bihute but it could be arranged with police and provincial health authorities.
“Inmates will be strictly monitored during the 14-day isolation period before they can be accepted if they have tested positive for the Covid-19,” he said.
Kipoi said due to the lack of space in jail, inmates were overcrowded. So if a new inmate introduces the virus, it would easily be spread among prisoners, warders and their families. “I have also already instructed senior officers to conduct awareness among prisoners, staff, their families and surrounding communities on how to manage the Covid 19 risks,” he said.
Bihute prison has 70 officers and 350 inmates. Weekend leave for prisoners has been suspended. Visits by family members and visitors for staff members will be thoroughly checked at the main gate.