Prisons require reform, equality

There was a widespread feeling that justice had not been done when Christoff Bekker and Frikkie du Preez were released on parole after serving only five-and-a-half years in prison for murdering a homeless man.

Such sentiments were only strengthened when a video of the so-called Waterkloof Two’s prison party went viral.

While prison is certainly no holiday for the vast majority of inmates, those who are well-connected and flush with cash can often seemingly turn their sentences into a minor inconvenience.

Instead of being rehabilitated they leave prison with their only lesson being: they are untouchable and there are no real consequences for criminal behaviour.

The decision by the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board to revoke Bekker and Du Preez’s parole for allegedly using alcohol in their cell should be welcomed, and so should the investigation into officials who may have been involved.

What’s less heartening is the fact that action was taken only after the story exploded in the media. Those in charge of our prisons must be well aware that this sort of abuse and breaking of the rules is common.

In fact, after the story first broke it was reported that there were even prisoners running businesses over the Internet from their prison cells.

Last week Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said the “noble profession of corrections has no place for criminals”.

But figures quoted by Ndebele in the same statement seem to contradict that. According to him, “251 officials were dismissed and demoted and 2 850 officials were subjected to misconduct, and disciplinary, hearings”.

Our prisons need serious reform to deal with both the hellish conditions some prisoners find themselves in, and the abuse that leads others to live a life of relative luxury before being released.

For this to happen the powers that be need to care about more cases than simply the ones that happen to make headlines.


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