A PRISON workers’ union has called on the Department of Correctional Services to protect its employees after a spate of attacks on warders in recent months. The South African Correctional Services Workers’ Union (Sacoswu) said its members were “walking in blood” inside the prisons.
In the last six months, a warder has died and three were stabbed and critically injured in East London, Barkly East and this week at Port Elizabeth’s St Albans prison.
Sacoswu’s deputy provincial secretary, Buzwe Matiti, said measures needed to be taken before more blood was spilt.
“We are not happy with what is happening in our prisons. We have already lost a member and three have been stabbed. When will it be the right time to say ‘enough is enough?’
“There are just not enough warders for these overcrowded prisons which is why this happens,” said Matiti.
“DCS [Department of Correctional Services] is not protecting its greatest assets, its workers. The same offenders who stabbed our members are still at these prisons and nothing has been done against them,” said Matiti.
He said the union received calls from members who complained about intimidation from inmates.
“We understand our job is to look after and rehabilitate them but dealing with them leaves us in fear. We as Sacoswu believe there is something DCS can do – employ more staff,” said Matiti.
“These days one member looks after close to 60 offenders; that is dangerous.”
Provincial DCS spokesman, Zama Feni, confirmed the stabbing incidents and said investigations were dealing with the cases.
But Sacoswu national president Toney Plaatjies said the warders were “walking in blood”.
“We cannot wait any longer; we are walking in blood inside the prisons. We do not want war between warders and offenders; we do not need that hatred,” said Plaatjies.
“We acknowledge not all offenders do this but we need to stop them from escalating this to other prisons.”
He said incidents at other prisons recently were a warning. “DCS needs to employ more staff. These are signals something needs to be done; we need to be able to manage and rehabilitate offenders; currently that does not happen ,” he said.
Matiti said offenders who stabbed warders needed to be re-classified and taken to C-Max prisons. — firstname.lastname@example.org