Re­port on pris­ons high­lights con­cerns

Pretoria News - - Metro - JAMES MAHLOKWANE

THE Ju­di­cial In­spec­torate of Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices has ex­pressed its con­cern with in­creas­ing sui­cides in pris­ons, over­crowd­ing, poor in­fras­truc­ture and vi­o­lence.

Yes­ter­day, the over­sight in­sti­tute re­leased its an­nual re­port in which it high­lighted con­cern­ing trends from 81 pris­ons in­spected dur­ing the 2017/18 fi­nan­cial year.

The re­port re­vealed that out of 1 200 in­mates who were iden­ti­fied and di­ag­nosed with men­tal ill­ness, 28 had com­mit­ted sui­cide. This was an in­crease by two such deaths com­pared with the 2016/17 fi­nan­cial year.

The in­spect­ing judge, Jus­tice Jo­hann van der Westhuizen, said men­tally chal­lenged pa­tients un­fit for trial were in pris­ons with staff in­ad­e­quately trained to care for them. He said this was be­cause of a lack of space in hos­pi­tals and spe­cialised shel­ters.

Jus­tice Westhuizen said an­other con­cern was the ac­knowl­edged un­der-re­port­ing of prison deaths since the end of last year. He said this was due to a lack of a func­tional manda­tory re­port­ing sys­tem in the De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices.

The in­spec­torate said this meant the De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices ne­glected to com­ply fully with the Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Act 111 of 1998, which re­quired that all deaths be re­ported to the over­sight body.

Yet an­other con­cern was over­crowd­ing. The re­port re­vealed that most pris­ons were over­crowded.

Jus­tice Westhuizen said pris­ons with di­lap­i­dated in­fras­truc­ture made mat­ters worse be­cause in some fa­cil­i­ties con­crete was break­ing off the walls, pos­ing threats be­cause it could be used as weapons by in­mates.

He said vi­o­lence in South African pris­ons, es­pe­cially where gangs were in­volved, was shock­ing. The re­port said cor­rec­tional ser­vices of­fi­cials had to use force in 995 in­stances – an in­crease of 724 in­stances com­pared with the 2016/17 fi­nan­cial year.

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