Inmates observe social distancing rules at a facility in Labuan. Physical visits to prisons for Hari Raya are prohibited this year except for special cases. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Prisons Department has rolled out a programme allowing family members of inmates to send text messages and Hari Raya greetings in lieu of visitations as restrictions on public movement continue under the government’s partial lockdown.

Rohaida Mohamad, a spokesman for the department, told FMT the iMesej service was launched yesterday and will continue until June 24 at selected prisons across the country.

She said information on the programme is available at the department’s website, adding that family members can contact the prison authorities for more details.

Visits to prisons have been restricted since the outbreak of Covid-19, with the government enforcing a movement control order in mid-March to curb the spread of infections.

Rohaida said visits by family members during the Hari Raya celebration as well as Hari Gawai and Kaamatan in Sarawak and Sabah would be barred except for special cases.

“However, they are allowed to send money for their loved ones to spend in accordance with the method decided on by the Prisons Department,” she added.

Criminal lawyer Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali said the sums remitted, usually between RM50 and RM100, would be converted into coupons for inmates to spend on food and other necessities at the canteen and tuck shop.

He said the iMesej service was a new initiative by the department in light of the virus outbreak.

In the past, he said, family members had been allowed to visit inmates for about 45 minutes to an hour during festivals such as Hari Raya.

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