More deaths in SA pris­ons

Cape Argus - - FRONT PAGE - JASON FELIX jason.felix@inl.co.za

IT’S DE­SCRIBED as hell and a mi­cro­cosm of the coun­try. These are our pris­ons, where crime is rife and where 500 in­mates have died, 82 of un­nat­u­ral causes.

The Ju­di­cial In­spec­torate for Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices (JICS) re­leased its re­port yes­ter­day and de­scribe a sit­u­a­tion of over­crowd­ing and fund­ing short­ages for the in­spec­torate to do its job, lead­ing to a visit to a prison only ev­ery three years.

It found that sui­cide is the most com­mon type of un­nat­u­ral death in the pris­ons with the ma­jor­ity oc­cur­ring in Gaut­eng. The prov­ince recorded 10 sui­cides, West­ern Cape four, Eastern Cape two, KwaZulu-Na­tal five, Free State and North­ern Cape four, and three oth­ers in Lim­popo, Mpumalanga and North West.

Dur­ing the 2017/18 fi­nan­cial year, 487 in­mates died from nat­u­ral causes, rep­re­sent­ing about 310 nat­u­ral deaths per 100.000 of the in­mate pop­u­la­tion.

Gaut­eng recorded the high­est num­ber of deaths, at 119.

Com­ment­ing on the re­port, Po­lice and Pris­ons Civil Rights Union spokesper­son Richard Mam­abolo said the fig­ures should be no sur­prise.

“Any­thing can hap­pen in pris­ons these days. This we all know. Al­most all pris­ons are hell and the staff have to en­dure these chal­lenges ev­ery day. The Ju­di­cial In­spec­torate for Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices has for years made these rec­om­men­da­tions. The gov­ern­ment knows that the pris­ons are over­crowded and they are do­ing very lit­tle to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion. It can­not con­tinue like this,” he said.

Asked about the im­pact on staff, Mam­abolo said: “We don’t even get com­plaints any­more . We sim­ply hear of res­ig­na­tions. And that is the sad re­al­ity we are liv­ing with. The prison pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing at a rapid pace, and the workers at pris­ons are di­min­ish­ing in num­bers.”

In­spect­ing Judge of the JICS Jus­tice Jo­hann van der Westhuizen said in­spec­tors vis­ited 81 cor­rec­tional cen­tres dur­ing the 2017/2018 fi­nan­cial year. “South Africa’s 243 cor­rec­tional cen­tres ac­com­mo­date more than 160 000 in­mates, in­clud­ing more

than 16 000 who are serv­ing life sen­tences. Ow­ing to fi­nan­cial and staff con­straints, JICS is able to visit each of these cen­tres only once ev­ery three years,” he said.

Judge Van der Westhuizen said the bud­getary con­straints re­mained a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge.

“This is un­ac­cept­able, whether legally jus­ti­fied or not. The uni­lat­eral al­lo­ca­tion im­pacts on, for ex­am­ple, the abil­ity to travel to cor­rec­tional cen­tres far from JICS of­fices.

“The prac­tice of (the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices) han­dling core as­pects of JICS’s func­tion­ing ca­pac­ity holds the po­ten­tial for se­ri­ous and even de­lib­er­ate un­der­min­ing of JICS and its man­date to over­see the treat­ment of in­mates in cor­rec­tional cen­tres,” he said.

In the West­ern Cape, cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties were on aver­age 45.4% over­pop­u­lated. The to­tal bed space in the the prov­ince is 20 643, while in ex­cess of 30 000 in­mates were in­car­cer­ated.

The West­ern Cape High Court in De­cem­ber 2016 or­dered Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices to trans­fer a large num­ber of sen­tenced in­mates from the over­crowded fa­cil­i­ties at Pollsmoor to other cen­tres across the coun­try.

Fa­cil­i­ties in­spected in the West­ern Cape with over­crowd­ing of 90% or more are pris­ons in Al­lan­dale, Lad­smith, Union­dale and Beau­fort West.

Sonke Gen­der Jus­tice pris­ons co-or­di­na­tor Zia Wasser­man said over­crowd­ing cre­ated an environment for dis­eases such as TB, HIV and lep­tospiro­sis.

Pro­vin­cial Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices spokesper­son Sim­phiwe Xako said the depart­ment was a mi­cro­cosm of the broader South African so­ci­ety.

“The rise in crime in com­mu­ni­ties will inevitably lead to a high of­fender pop­u­la­tion,” he noted.

BERTRAM MALGAS

PRIS­ONS are de­scribed as hell, as death toll rises and gov­ern­ment is said to be turn­ing a blind eye. |

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