Rul­ing to curb over­crowd­ing

Cape Times - - FRONT PAGE - STAFF WRITER

OF­FEND­ERS who have been handed sen­tences of less than two years will serve their time do­ing com­mu­nity ser­vice. This de­ci­sion has been made by Act­ing High Court Judge AJ Thu­lare in a bid to curb over­crowd­ing in pris­ons.

The move has been wel­comed by Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices re­gional com­mis­sioner Delek­ile Klaas.

Judge Thu­lare said a sen­tence of less than 24 months amounted to ju­di­cial ware­hous­ing of the ac­cused, “who are gen­er­ally poor and ca­su­al­ties of so­cio-eco­nomic con­di­tions”.

“(The depart­ment) does noth­ing more than an act of stor­ing them un­til they are re­leased with­out ben­e­fit­ing in any way from such in­car­cer­a­tion. (It) has be­come a con­ve­nient time-util­ity fa­cil­ity, stor­ing peo­ple and re­leas­ing them ac­cord­ing to their al­lo­cated times,” said Judge Thu­lare.

Klaas told mem­bers of the le­gal fra­ter­nity that cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties around the Western Cape had their hands tied be­cause they had to ac­cept of­fend­ers re­ferred by courts even though their cen­tres were burst­ing at the seams.

“It would def­i­nitely be viewed as con­tempt of court if any cor­rec­tional of­fi­cial or area com­mis­sioner had to turn back even a sin­gle of­fender due to over­crowd­ing,” Klaas said.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est statis­tics, the Western Cape is one of the re­gions with a huge pris­oner pop­u­la­tion.

In De­cem­ber 2016, the Western Cape High Court in­structed the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices to re­duce over­crowd­ing to be­low 150%.

Klaas said that should most ju­di­cial of­fi­cials fol­low Judge Thu­lare’s ap­proach, this would lead to some much-needed re­lief for most cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties and save mil­lions in tax-pay­ers’ money.

Western Cape Judge Pres­i­dent John Hlophe ex­pressed shock and dis­ap­point­ment at the sen­tenc­ing of of­fend­ers to lengthy prison terms for petty crimes, adding that this fac­tor alone con­trib­uted to over­crowd­ing.

Dur­ing a visit to the Good­wood Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity, Judge Hlophe was shocked to find that one in­mate was serv­ing six months for tres­pass­ing, while an­other had served two years for con­tempt of court.

At the end of the tour, Judge Hlophe an­nounced that his team would visit var­i­ous courts and en­gage some ju­di­cial of­fi­cials on the con­cept of con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy and equal jus­tice for all.

“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 en­gage the courts and urge them not to be vin­dic­tive or seek to set­tle un­known scores.”

An­other mem­ber of the del­e­ga­tion, Judge Si­raj De­sai, called upon district and re­gional mag­is­trates to be com­pas­sion­ate and to ap­ply their minds prop­erly when sen­tenc­ing of­fend­ers.

He added that any form of reck­less­ness of­ten placed the lives of or­di­nary South Africans at risk and of­ten led to bro­ken fam­i­lies, as most par­ents stood to lose their em­ploy­ment be­cause they had in­curred a crim­i­nal record.

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