Prison authorities act on suicides in custody

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Tuhafeni Hamunyela, Commissioner General of Correctional Services.

WINDHOEK – The increase in prisoners committing suicide in custody has prompted the Commissioner General of Correctional Services, Tuhafeni Hamunyela, to take action. Hamunyela said measures would include limiting what trial-awaiting and sentenced prisoners have with them in custody.

The commissioner was quick to point out that the measures would not however stop suicide, as blankets can also be turned into ropes. “The measures cannot stop suicides, but the aim is to reduce suicides,” the commissioner informed on Wednesday. 

In the span of less than two weeks three people committed suicide in jail. The woman accused of bashing the head of four-year-old Fortuna Tenete in the Wanaheda police station cells in January this year, thereby causing the child’s death, committed suicide on Monday night. She used her leggings to hang herself in the Gobabis police holding cells.

A man allegedly committed suicide in the Oshikango jail by using a piece of his trousers to hang himself. Another man convicted of killing his wife also committed suicide, by overdosing on prescriptions, in the Windhoek prison.

Hamunyela said people who plan to commit suicide do not normally show any sign that they will do so, citing the example of a prisoner who committed suicide in the shower last year. The man showed no signs of depression or that he was planning to take his own life.

Hamunyela also said suicides should not be blamed on lax security at prisons, unless incidents were reported to prison authorities and no action was taken.

Prisoners are forbidden from having belts and shoelaces in custody. But seemingly they always find new ways of ending their lives.

By Tunomukwathi Asino

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