Packed jails ham­per drive

Man­dela Rules won’t be easy to implement

Sowetan - - News - By Linda En­sor

Over­crowd­ing in pris­ons will make it dif­fi­cult for the gov­ern­ment to implement “Man­dela Rules”, which were adopted by the UN.

The rules set min­i­mum stan­dards for the treat­ment of pris­on­ers and were adopted in De­cem­ber 2015 by mem­ber states of the UN.

Yes­ter­day, in Cape Town, Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Min­is­ter Michael Ma­sutha said cab­i­net had ap­proved the Man­dela Rules in March and they would be launched in July.

The min­is­ter said the rules did not specif­i­cally pre­scribe oc­cu­pancy lev­els but in gen­eral terms over­crowd­ing mil­i­tated against the de­liv­ery of ef­fec­tive ser­vices to in­mates. The rules en­dorsed the prin­ci­ple that pris­on­ers be treated hu­manely and were ac­corded all their rights to proper nu­tri­tion, ex­er­cise, ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing, and so on.

“We do need to con­sider up­front that the con­tin­ued chal­lenge of over­crowd­ing presents as a se­ri­ous chal­lenge,” Ma­sutha said. He stressed the need for South Africa to ad­dress its high level of crime, es­pe­cially in Western Cape, where there had been a huge up­surge in vi­o­lent crime.

South Africa has a pris­onbed ca­pac­ity for about 119 000 pris­on­ers, which is suf­fi­cient for the sen­tenced pris­oner pop­u­la­tion of about the same num­ber. How­ever, there is an over­pop­u­la­tion of pris­ons when re­mand pris­on­ers were taken into ac­count.

As at April there were 163 114 in­mates in the coun­try’s 243 cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties, of which 117 820 were sen­tenced of­fend­ers and 45 294 were re­mand de­tainees. Over­crowd­ing na­tion­ally is in the re­gion of 37% but in some pris­ons in ar­eas where crime is very high, over­crowd­ing can reach as high as 200%.

Ma­sutha said the chal­lenge of over­crowd­ing was be­ing ad­dressed through a mul­ti­pronged strat­egy which in­cluded the strength­en­ing of di­ver­sion pro­grammes, al­ter­na­tive sen­tenc­ing, cre­at­ing ad­di­tional bed spa­ces, bet­ter man­age­ment of the pa­role sys­tem and the pro­mo­tion of suc­cess­ful so­cial in­te­gra­tion.

The big­gest chal­lenge was deal­ing with re­mand pris­on­ers as it was dif­fi­cult to plan for them as their num­bers and length of stay could not be pre­dicted. For ex­am­ple, there had been a huge in­flux of about 4 000 re­mand pris­on­ers in Western Cape over the past three to six months, which had placed enor­mous pres­sure on an al­ready crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion.

Ma­sutha said new fa­cil­i­ties had been con­structed to in­crease the num­ber of prison beds and other fa­cil­i­ties had been ex­panded.

ZITHA . / DUDU

In ar­eas where crime is very high, over­crowd­ing in some pris­ons can reach as high as 200%.

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