Judge de­scribes over­crowded pris­ons as ‘ware­hous­ing fa­cil­i­ties’ for mostly poor of­fend­ers

Cape Argus - - NEWS - JA­SON FE­LIX ja­son.fe­[email protected]

IN­STEAD of be­ing sent to prison, of­fend­ers given sen­tences of less than two years should rather un­der­take com­mu­nity ser­vice.

This call was made in a re­cent rul­ing by Western Cape High Court act­ing Judge Daniel Thu­lare. “In my view, a sen­tence of im­pris­on­ment for a pe­riod of less than 24 months amounts to noth­ing more than ju­di­cial ware­hous­ing of the ac­cused, who are gen­er­ally poor and ca­su­al­ties of so­cio-eco­nomic con­di­tions,” he said.

Thu­lare said the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices (DCS) “does noth­ing more than an act of stor­ing them (of­fend­ers) un­til they are re­leased with­out ben­e­fit­ing in any way from such in­car­cer­a­tion”.

Western Cape Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices com­mis­sioner Delek­ile Klaas said should most courts fol­low Thu­lare’s ap­proach, it would lead to much­needed re­lief for most cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties. “Ev­i­dently this would save mil­lions in tax­pay­ers’ money,” he said.

Klaas, judges and mem­bers of the Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s provin­cial ef­fi­ciency en­hance­ment com­mit­tee re­cently paid an unan­nounced visit to the Good­wood Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity.

Judge Pres­i­dent of the Western Cape High Court John Hlophe, who was on the tour, was shocked at the sen­tenc­ing of of­fend­ers to lengthy prison terms for petty crimes.

“These are our chil­dren, not an­i­mals; any form of pun­ish­ment should have the in­tent to re­build and ed­u­cate rather than com­pletely de­stroy the sus­pect. We need to... urge them (courts) not to be vin­dic­tive or seek to set­tle un­known scores,” Hlophe said.

Klaas said cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties in the prov­ince had to ac­cept of­fend­ers re­ferred by courts even though they were burst­ing at the seams. Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est statis­tics, the Western Cape is one of the prov­inces with ex­tremely over­crowded pris­ons.

Ju­di­cial In­spec­torate for Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices (JICS) spokesper­son Emer­en­tia Cupido said in its in­spec­tions, it con­tin­u­ally found thou­sands of in­mates were sen­tenced to di­rect im­pris­on­ment of less than 24 months.

“The JICS agrees with the ju­di­ciary in the Western Cape that our fa­cil­i­ties are un­nec­es­sar­ily over­crowded, and that the lower courts, when ex­er­cis­ing their dis­cre­tion in de­ter­min­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate sen­tence, should re­frain from im­pos­ing short-term cus­to­dial sen­tences. In­so­far as re­mand de­tainees are con­cerned the depart­ment has a range of leg­isla­tive pro­vi­sions at their dis­posal that were specif­i­cally en­acted by Par­lia­ment to per­mit the depart­ment to ad­dress grossly over­crowded fa­cil­i­ties,” Cupido said.

Judge Si­raj De­sai said: “Any form of reck­less­ness of­ten places the lives of or­di­nary South Africans at risk, and of­ten leads to bro­ken fam­i­lies as most par­ents stand to lose their em­ploy­ment due to in­cur­ring a crim­i­nal record.”

In De­cem­ber 2016 the Western Cape High Court had in­structed the depart­ment to re­duce over­crowd­ing to be­low 150%, but most cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties were re­port­ing that pris­oner pop­u­la­tions were again in­creas­ing.

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