Yet an­other slap in their faces

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

DUR­ING court pro­ceed­ings or upon fi­nal­i­sa­tion of their tri­als, some crim­i­nals have a ten­dency of sneer­ing at the fam­i­lies of those they have ei­ther raped or killed. They have unashamedly flashed zap signs at be­reaved fam­i­lies or women they raped, dis­re­gard­ing their pain. Some of the af­fected peo­ple sit there in tears, de­feated and en­raged by the fact that the per­son who took their loved one’s life gets to live and eat food bought by their tax money and their fam­i­lies have the lux­ury of vis­it­ing them, even en­joy­ing a few more years with them once they are re­leased.

Imag­ine what it must have been like for rape vic­tims or mur­der vic­tims’ fam­i­lies to see these hard­ened crim­i­nals treated to a strip show at the Jo­han­nes­burg Medium B Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre, a place where they are sup­posed to be re­ha­bil­i­tated.

The Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices has said it was yet to es­tab­lish whether the women were strip­pers or dancers. Ei­ther way, hav­ing half­naked women pranc­ing around prison grounds, get­ting up close and per­sonal with pris­on­ers is far from re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing them. How was that sup­posed to help pris­on­ers be­come bet­ter peo­ple ca­pa­ble of liv­ing with oth­ers in har­mony once they are re­leased?

Visi­ta­tion rules for pris­ons are clear: Mis­be­haviour, such as un­be­com­ing con­ducts and dis­turb­ing oth­ers, will im­me­di­ately lead to the ter­mi­na­tion of the visit. But in this case, none of the of­fi­cials on duty dur­ing the so-called Youth Month cel­e­bra­tions had the pres­ence of mind to re­alise that what was un­fold­ing be­fore them was out of or­der. They just sat there and en­joyed the show, breach­ing se­cu­rity and poli­cies they are sup­posed to ad­here to.

We hope the depart­ment will go be­yond just serv­ing the 13 of­fi­cials with no­tices of sus­pen­sion and take a stance so firm that it will change per­cep­tions that Joburg prison is just like “Sun City”, a place for fun and games.

As it is, pris­on­ers have cell­phones they use to run their busi­ness from in­side and are able to ac­cess ex­tra lux­u­ries smug­gled in by the same of­fi­cials.

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