Report on prisons highlights concerns
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.