28 June. According to the authorities, the vaccination campaign for prisoners over the age of 60 was going according to plan, with 500 already vaccinated.
8 June. The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) called for prison guards and police officers to be given priority in the vaccination campaign. The union’s spokesperson noted 7,549 cases of infection and 77 deaths among prison workers.
22 January. Overcrowded and understaffed prisons around the country threaten the lives of inmates and staff. Detention conditions at St Albans prison are getting worse. The number of prisoners exceeds the prison capacity by 140%.
21 January. Prison officials recruited more than 2,000 new officers. They are increasing health restrictions to prevent infections and are improving the cleaning of facilities. Saut de page
19 January. Caledon prison planned to ease the strict restrictions put in place five days earlier. There were no new cases in that period.
19 January. On 3 January, officials announced that all inmates would be vaccinated during the second phase of the vaccine roll-out. The first phase applied to the country’s health care personnel. The country’s constitution and the International Bill of Rights guarantee that all inmates have access to health care.
7 January. Officials announced that inmates would be among the first South Africans to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
9 March. Visits have resumed. Each prisoner is allowed two visitors per month, one person at a time.
1 July. Prison unions, such as The South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights, are demanding that prisoners and prison staff be vaccinated as a matter of priority.
20 June. The Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services called for the vaccinations for prisoners and prison staff to be accelerated to avoid a looming health crisis.
27 February. A prisoners’ rights NGO called on Cap prison authorities to be more transparent about the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths. The authorities publish only regional numbers, not for each facility. One NGO member explained: “We must accept and concede whatever they tell us, because we can’t prove them otherwise and they are not working with any external stakeholders […] they say they have enough PPE, but when you hear what the inmates have to say it’s the total opposite.”.
14 February. One judge sounded the alarm on the inhumane detention conditions in the country’s prisons, which are harmful to the health of inmates. He called on the authorities to guarantee the protection and dignity of inmates: “The determined over-use of incarceration in our administration of justice has led to overcrowded, inhumane and degrading conditions of detention. Its effects are far-reaching. In some instances, we force correctional centre staff to cram three times more inmates into cells than design allows. This may mean sleeping on the floor, and living in unhygienic conditions, with below-par ablution facilities. Sexual assaults and other violent acts become difficult to control. The risk of transmitting communicable and infectious diseases increases significantly. And mental health is a grave concern.”
21 January. The POPCRU union called for the resignation of the Correctional Service National Commissioner over surges in the number of COVID-19 cases in prison.
Officials denied the resurgence of positive cases among staff at the East London prison. The prison has been understaffed since the pandemic started.
14 January. The Sapohr organisation denounced the country’s prison conditions. It reported significant overcrowding as well as high infection and death rates among inmates and prison staff. Prison officials disagreed with this account. It acknowledged there were 58 deaths among inmates since January 2020. The 130 prison staff members who died were said to have been infected outside the prison.
1 March. St Albans inmates went on a hunger strike for several days to demand better conditions at the facility. One inmate said: “ We have about 44 inmates in each cell whilst COVID-19 affects us all. [Management’s] only concern is for us to practice social distancing but we don’t get masks or sanitisers, and they don’t fumigate.“
Inmates can only exercise up to 30 minutes a day. One of them said: “We have nothing to relieve stress” The SAPOHR (South African Prisoners’ Organisation for Human Rights) NGO said the complaints have been the same for years.
5 February. The authorities counted a total of 62 COVID-19 related deaths among prisoners.
21 January. Officials reported 9,892 cases of COVID-19 inside the prison, 6,394 of whom were officers and 3,498 were inmates. Officials reported 192 deaths from COVID-19, 133 among prison staff and 59 among inmates.
19 January. Prison officials recorded 934 active cases inside the country’s prisons, affecting mostly prison staff. Officers who test positive must continue to work due to staff shortages.
9 January. Helderstroom prison announced that 152 inmates and eight prison officers tested positive for COVID-19. The authorities tightened restrictions inside the prison.
Some of the COVID-19 positive inmates were transferred to Pollsmoor facility for treatment.
The country reported 58 deaths among inmates and 124 among prison staff. Prison officials reported 9,428 positive cases in prison since the pandemic started.
8 January. Authorities imposed a lockdown in Helderstroom prison, in the Western Cape, due to a rise in infections. Prison officials announced 87 new infections among inmates. Confirmed cases were placed in self-isolation and suspected cases were quarantined.
Prisons in the Gauteng region have a total of 592 inmates and 1,102 staff who are infected. The Western Cape region reported 798 inmates and 1,178 staff as positive since the virus appeared in prison. The Eastern Cape has 1,215 inmates and 1,127 staff infected with the virus. Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North-West, announced that 585 staff and 180 inmates were positive.
6 January. Countrywide the count is now 3,106 positive inmates and 60 deaths.
27 April. The UN Volunteers programme, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has deployed seven doctors and three psychologists to prisons since October 2020 to improve the quality of health services. “In Benin, the prison occupancy rate is estimated at 170.19%, indicating the persistence of prison overcrowding despite efforts made by the government. This situation, which forces prisoners to live in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, is like a bomb in the context of COVID-19,” the UNDP said.
15 February. NGOs for the protection of children are concerned about the restricted access to juvenile correctional centres. They stated that these restriction measures could harm the health of detained children. The organisations called on the authorities to relax the measures. “Many children are detained in cramped and overcrowded spaces, and do not have access to proper food, health care and hygiene. […] Detained children are more vulnerable to negligence, abuse, torture and gender-based violence during the pandemic when measures taken to control it are leading to a shortage of staff and protection; external actors, such as the Civil Society Organisations, and families no longer have access to the centres and the detained chidren”.
14 June. The prison administration is committed to installing a video-conferencing system for prisoners to communicate with their families.
26 June. The Director of the Prison Service confirmed that the country held 13,200 prisoners in less than 10,000 places, an average occupancy rate of over 130%.
28 April. President Evariste Ndayishimiye pardoned 5,000 prisoners. Among them were women with young children, people at risk and those suffering from chronic illnesses. There are 12,000 incarcerated people in the country, yet its prisons only have space for 4,000.
27 April. The presidential pardon has led to the release of at least 1,300 prisoners.
5 April. The Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) called on the government to release some prisoners. Measures taken during the first wave were not enough to reduce prison overcrowding. The CRM said that, “the government cannot allow tens of thousands of prisoners, mostly untried prisoners, who populate the country’s prisons to see their detention turn into a disguised death sentence.”
27 March. People in several prisons protested against overcrowding and poor hygiene. One prisoner said: “COVID-19 is ravaging our country. We need to be able to have proper hygiene. At times they cut water for two or three days. To wash hands is very, very difficult. Government should come and look for solutions…” His prison incarcerates 4,500 people in a facility built for 1,500. The Minister of Justice acknowledged the increase in positive cases and denounced the complaints as “unfounded”.
27 March. According to the government, 700 prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 out of the 16,250 tested over the past three months. There were less than 300 last year.
18 March. Nkongsamba prison has 153 positive cases.
24 May. Prisoners at Minya prison received their first vaccination dose during an inspection visit by human rights defenders.
24 May. According to the Ministry of Interior, no new positive cases have been detected in the country prisons. It stated that the vaccination drive, which included elderly and younger prisoners, started two weeks ago and should end soon.
18 May. A vaccination drive was kick started at Fayoum prison.
17 May. The Deputy Minister of Interior stated that prison authorities have almost completed the first vaccination drive. Nearly all prisoners received the first dose. He re-iterated that the campaign had started two weeks ago.
25 January. The International Amnesty report accused Egyptian authorities of endangering the health of inmates: “Longstanding issues, such as lack of clean water, poor ventilation and overcrowding, have made physical distancing and preventative hygienic measures impossible to implement. […] Detainees who displayed COVID-19 symptoms were not systematically tested.”. Inmates are sometimes left in their cells, placing their fellow inmates at risk. Authorities refuse to reveal the number of incarcerated people around the country. Some estimate the toll to be as high as 114,000, “over double the prison capacity of 55,000 indicated by President Abdalfatah al-Sisi in December 2020.[…] In the 16 examined prisons, hundreds of detainees are crammed into overcrowded cells with an estimated average 1.1 m2 floor space available per prisoner, much less than the 3.4 m² minimum recommended by experts”.
Authorities released 4,000 fewer people in 2020 than in 2019.
20 July. Authorities ordered the release of 2,075 prisoners on the occasion of Aïd Al-Adha. A senate member stated that “the growing liberation of the prisoners will reduce the prison population and prevent disease transmission.” Authorities were also considering releasing untried prisoners and those who are especially vulnerable to the disease.
27 April. A presidential pardon on Sinai Liberation Day allowed the release of 2,674 prisoners. Prison authorities did not provide further information on the eligibility criteria for this release, but it is believed that political prisoners were excluded.
28 June. The administrative tribunal has adjourned the session planned for 9 July in which a prisoner lodged a complaint against the prison service. The complainant and many of their fellow prisoners have repeatedly emphasised to the authorities their desire to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. To date, they have received no response.
25 January. Amnesty International called on Egyptian authorities to “provide all individuals in their custody with adequate health care, including COVID-19 vaccination, without discrimination. […] The authorities must urgently reduce overcrowding including by immediately releasing all those detained arbitrarily and consider releasing prisoners at higher risk from COVID-19 complications due to their age or underlying medical conditions”.
12 May. A 71-year-old prisoner died after contracting the virus in Fayoum prison. The Chehab Center for Human Rights denounced there was medical negligence.
21 February. An inmate at Tora al-Balad prison in Cairo, died from COVID-19. His lawyer’s request to have him transferred to an outside medical centre was ignored. The number of people who died from medical negligence has risen to nine since the beginning of the year, according to human rights organisations.
4 February. Three prisoners died of COVID-19, in less than three days. The three passed away in a police station. Their requests for a hospital transfer were refused, until their situation deteriorated.
6 January. Authorities denied allegations of a pandemic in prisons. They called the rumors “completely unfounded”, and they affirmed there “were no suspected cases, or infected inmates, or deaths from the virus in Egyptian prisons”.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, human rights groups have called on the authorities to release political prisoners to prevent the spread of the virus. These groups repeatedly report that there are many positive cases in prison.
26 January. The prisoner’s association SOS Gabon addressed a letter to the government requesting the reinstatement of visitation privileges, which had been suspended since March 2020, including for lawyers. The association considered this measure a violation of the prisoner’s rights: “The health crisis cannot continue to affect this right indefinitely […] This right must be guaranteed in order to prepare the prisoners for resocialisation at the end of their detention […] This visitation ban seems to be a double penalty for inmates and a punishment for their families. It is time to lift this measure, while ensuring certain measures are respected, as is the case in all public services and places (markets, schools, churches, administrations, etc.), as these prisoners are also human beings who need to live“.
26 June. The Director of the Prison Service confirmed that the country held 13,200 prisoners in less than 10,000 places, an average occupancy rate of over 130%.
7 March. About 8,900 prison officers were vaccinated against COVID-19. In 2020, 45 officers and 54 prisoners died from the pandemic.
8 February. Sanitary measures have been put in place within Sunyani prison. Authorities disinfected and distributed masks and buckets of water for hand washing. Two rooms have been reserved for quarantining new arrivals. The facility accommodates 846 inmates, in 450 available places. The prison authorities revealed that sometimes “the number of prisoners exceeds 900”.
3 March Prison authorities proposed to move prisoners held in Kumasi prisons to new buildings, to alleviate overcrowding. These facilities have 450 available spaces for approximately 1,981 prisoners. The prison service stated: “We cannot pretend that all is well. Incarcerated people are unable to maintain social distancing, as hundreds of them are crowded in cells“.
8 February. Prison authorities requested an increased water supply in prisons and an increased food allowance for prisoners. The current allowance does not allow them to purchase three meals per day. The prison services mentioned that a good diet, in part, keeps the prisoners in good health and protects them from the pandemic. They encouraged relatives to bring food and protective equipment to protect themselves against COVID-19 during visits.
4 February. The Courts will only preside over urgent matters, mainly applications for bail and injunctions. The authorities advised that “no one will be excluded or denied justice when needed”.
7 May. The vice-president said the success of the vaccination campaign and the containment of the pandemic in prison were remarkable. None of the prisoners in custody before the pandemic contracted the virus and around 3,297 people were vaccinated (2,161 staff members and 1,136 prisoners).
11 June. The prison authorities received 100 000 doses of coronavirus vaccine to inoculate all prisoners and staff. The vaccination campaign has begun among staff, and 15,000 officers have received the first dose.
24 March. Prison authorities have begun vaccinating all staff members. The first phase involved 8,000 agents.
8 January. Officials received equipment needed to conduct virtual trials. The equipment should speed-up court hearings, reduce the number of untried prisoners and prevent the risk of infection while travelling to and from the various courts.
A member of the court said: “We have been facing immense challenges since the onset of COVID-19 because of lack of facilities, but with the donation, we believe our work will become easier”.
22 April. The government authorised the release of more than 14,000 prisoners in response to the surge in coronavirus cases. The decision came after prison authorities decided to exclude prisoners from national vaccination campaigns. Since the start of the pandemic, seven correctional officers and about the same number of prisoners have died from the virus.
13 juin. Authorities announced an imminent resumption of visits to prisoners that were suspended one year ago.
4 May. Of the 63 tests conducted at Siaya GK prison, 28 came back positive. Six more prisoners tested positive following rapid tests taken later on, bringing the total number of cases to 34.
17 February. Reports from former inmates denounced the inhumane and dangerous conditions in the prisons. One of them alleged that: “the holding cells at Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS)’s Maseru Central Correctional Institution are overcrowded, unhygienic and filthy. A cell is sometimes flooded with 20 inmates. A mattress meant for one individual is shared by three people and blankets are scarce. Ticks are very dominant in the cells.”. Authorities conceded that prisons are overcrowded and have put measures in place for self-isolation and quarantine. An agreement was signed with the courts to detain only suspects accused of “serious” crimes.
17 February. Qacha Nek prison recorded, 47 positive cases out of 60 inmates in February. The WHO has said that any infection rate above 5 % should be a cause of major concern. According to prison authorities, inmates were quarantined, had recovered, or were convalescing.
2 February. An inmate at Maseru prison died from what is suspected to be COVID-19. His five cellmates were tested and placed in isolation. The prisoner had been in contact with several other prisoners in the facility. The police could not determine the cause of death due to a lack of sanitary equipment.
27 May. Prison authorities reported that about 4,400 of 11,500 eligible prisoners have now been vaccinated. All prison staff have received the vaccine. Nearly 300 prisoners aged 45 years and older have benefited from the vaccination campaign at Al Arjat 1 prison.
27 May. As part of the vaccination drive started in March, close to 4,000 prisoners have been vaccinated. According to the person in charge of health services for prisons, they expected to reach “an 80% group immunity for the prisoners”. Approximately 85,000 incarcerated people around the country are facing a “chronic problem” of prison overcrowding; almost one in two prisoners is awaiting trial and the occupation rates are close to 250% in some facilities. The vaccination drive targeted prisoners over age 45 and those with chronic illnesses that could lead to complications.
25 March. About 77% of incarcerated people over age 60 have been vaccinated in 85% of prisons. The rest are still waiting.
10 March. Prisoners in Rabat are eligible for their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, depending on their age. They will receive the second dose 28 days after the initial injection.
28 April. Approximately 133,000 trials were held virtually to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. These remote hearings limited physical contact between prisoners and officials. The opposition criticised this system and declared that defendants were not given a fair trial.
3 February. Ibadan Prison refused to accept three untried prisoners. This facility prohibits entry to any prisoner who cannot prove they have been tested. The three individuals were imprisoned in police stations again.
5 July. The governor of Nasarawa has released 36 prisoners in order to reduce prison overcrowding.
15 June. The Controller of Corrections Federal Capital Territory Command, the body responsible for the capital’s prisons, believes that virtual hearings would reduce prison overcrowding, given the large numbers awaiting trial.
19 February. The NAS association expressed concern over the lack of physical distancing in prison. It called on authorities to implement health restriction measures and address the health of inmates. It also called for the release of those who are most vulnerable and at the end of their sentence.
15 June. The authorities reintroduced a ban on all visits in an attempt to contain the spread of coronavirus.
5 July. The prison service has informed the national COVID-19 working group of a surge of infections in the country’s prisons.
10 July. The prison service has recorded 15 positive cases in Mugoye prison.
21 March. At least 29 people incarcerated in Kisangani prison died in 2020. This represents more than two deaths per month. According to prison authorities, a lack of proper food and medication led to the deaths.
23 February. Two prisoners held in a Mongwalu police cell died from malnutrition in the space of two days. The facility, which also serves as a prison and has a capacity for 75 people, houses some one-hundred inmates. They have to rely on help from their families for survival. Some of them were transferred to Bunia prison, which also lacks enough food to feed the inmates.
27 January. NGOs denounced cases of torture and inhuman treatment in Bukavu and Kabare prisons. Prisoners were forced to pay up to $500 to be spared. A member of the NGO said: “that the excessive torture in these prisons has been verified. Our compatriots have been tortured by some inmates who are directly collaborating with some of the prison authorities. If they don’t pay, they are subjected to torture.”
20 January. The U.N. offered a training session to 27 staff members at Goma prison on the use of proper protective measures.
Mwene-Ditu prison has not had any medication for those who are ill, nor food supplies, for several months. Its capacity is for 20 persons, but currently, it has more than one hundred inmates.
8 January. The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) released 984 people imprisoned in North Kivu in 2020. 214 of them had been imprisoned for violating measures imposed by the authorities during the pandemic by organising protests and rallies.
17 January. Eighty inmates at Bunia prison have received a presidential pardon. The facility has more than 1,500 inmates, or six times its capacity.
20 January. Inmates at Mwene-Ditu prison tried to escape. They were demanding to have their hearings. The riot was triggered by the death of an inmate awaiting trial on the night before. One of the inmates said, “we are dying before being tried. There is rioting in the prison.”
27 June. Seven prisoners tested positive at Malaka central prison.
9 March. A vaccination campaign was organised at Kigali prison, where more than 2,077 people are held. Priority has been given to people who are chronically ill and/or those over 60. A member of the prison administration explained: “Social distancing is not easy in prison. The vaccine is a good step towards prevention, and hopefully it will be given to all prisoners in the future”. Nyarugenge prison accommodates about 10,000 prisoners. Just over 20% of incarcerated people have already received the vaccine. The campaign is expected to be extended to other prisons as more vaccines become available.
20 January. Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal State Women’s Association paid several fines allowing the release of 14 inmates from Aweil prison. The prison administration encouraged the authorities and supporters to do the same for inmates imprisoned for “minor” offences. The prison currently has 429 inmates.
28 April. A presidential pardon allowed sentences to be adjusted for 5,001 prisoners: 1,516 were released after a quarter of their sentence was reduced, while 3,485 had their sentences reduced but will remain in prison.
21 May. The interim Minister of Justice stated that Uthna Prison is designated to receive prisoners who test positive in order to isolate them from the rest of the prison population.
19 April. The prison administration planned to administer the vaccine to 5,000 prisoners over the age of 65 and to those suffering from chronic diseases. The vaccination campaign began at Mornaguia prison.
19 April. The authorities welcomed the implementation of the health plan and the allocation of seven new units for incoming prisoners. The head of the National Authority against Torture stated that health protocols are not respected in prisons. He pointed to the lack of distancing and mask wearing and said that the facilities had become a hotbed of infection due to transfers between the courts and prisons.
19 April. Most facilities are overcrowded. To prevent the health crisis from getting worse, prison authorities distributed personal protective equipment, quarantined the most vulnerable persons, and suspended visits and activities.
16 April. Mornaguia prison started its vaccination campaign. The vaccine was administered to 500 prisoners, aged 60 to 75, and to those with chronic ailments.
28 March. A vaccination program for incarcerated people was underway.
29 June. An outbreak was discovered at Messaâdine prison, where a total of 292 prisoners and prison officers tested positive. The prisoners were transferred to a facility in Ben Arous and the staff was placed under quarantine.
2 June. One hundred forty three prisoners and 50 staff have tested positive for COVID-19. They were quarantined in private areas. Their condition was reported as stable.
June 2. The prison administration spokesperson announced that seven prisoners and six prison officials have died since the beginning of the pandemic. The prisoners were all elderly and/or chronically ill.
28 March. Seven positive cases were reported in the country’s prisons: two prisoners and five staff members. Prison authorities are proud of the effectiveness of their health measures.
12 February. Prison authoritiesannounced that some one-hundred new positive cases among the country’s prison staff and inmates. An inmate at Namuseche prison has died from COVID-19 since the virus appeared in the country.
1 February. The six establishments in the east of the country recorded six positive cases of COVID-19. The inmates were placed in isolation and received treatment. There is a total of 2,303 people imprisoned throughout the region.
2 March. Prison staff will get the COVID-19 vaccine during the first phase of the vaccination programme. The second phase will include 21,000 inmates incarcerated across the country.
24 January. A corporation donated personal protective equipment to contain the spread of COVID-19 among inmates at Chikurubi prison. Prison officials called on other corporations around the country to do the same: “Other parastatals should also come on board and help fight the pandemic in our correctional facilities.”
12 January. An inmate in Chikurubi prison warned officials of the risk of infections. He feared he had contracted COVID-19 and that his prison conditions might put his fellow inmates and prison staff at risk.
Another inmate denounced the conditions of his transportation to court: “The prison authorities are violating the court order which says I must be in the truck alone. This shows how disrespectful the government is to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.”.
7 July. The Judicial Service Commission of Zimbabwe (JSC) has announced the closure of its highest courts, the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, following rising COVID-19 infections in the country.
17 April. A presidential pardon provides for the release of around 3,000 people deprived of liberty. This measure applies to people convicted for non-violent crimes. Four hundred prisoners have already been released from Chikurubi prison.
17 March. The government announced pardons for prisoners who have served at least one-third of their sentence. Those with life sentences who have served at least 15 years are also to be released. Those convicted of the most serious crimes are excluded from this policy. The prisons hold 20,407 people in facilities meant for 17,000.
11 February. Prison officials called on the president to pardon 5,000 inmates, which represents one-quarter of the country’s prison population. Around 20,000 inmates are being held in prisons intended for 17,000. There are currently no provisions for early release in Zimbabwe. Only the president may pardon prisoners.
22 June. More than 40 prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 in Bindura prison.
2 March. Six prison officers and six prisoners have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. A total of 403 officers and 564 inmates have reportedly tested positive for the virus.
27 January. One hundred and ten inmates tested positive for COVID-19 at Mutimurefu prison, one of the country’s most overcrowded prison.
13 January. A Chikurubi prison officer died from COVID-19. Fifteen others tested positive. One guard from another facility was placed in quarantine.