The prison population stands at 162,875 inmates, while the capacity or available bed space is 118,572.
Prison violence and overcrowding remain the most prevalent issues facing inmates in South Africa’s prisons, according to the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services’ annual report for the 2018/19 review period.
According to the report, as of March 31, the prison population stood at 162,875 inmates, while the capacity or available bed space was 118,572.
Despite the department of correctional services (DCS) having put plans in place to create more bed space, in practice, the report pointed out, the available space had not changed materially for the past three years.
In Gauteng, only two of the 15 prisons were not overcrowded. Pollsmoor Prison in the Western Cape remained the most overcrowded, with its two centres (medium A and medium B) being 122% and 226% overcrowded, respectively.
According to the report, assaults by wardens dominated the 730 complaints made by inmates, which the body dealt with.
Violence was rife within the prison environment while the report showed that inmates complained most about assault by officials. The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) complained that wardens felt outnumbered and equally unsafe at the hands of violent inmates.
“We have complained about this issue daily and it is clear that the department has lost its mandate, which is to rehabilitate prisoners,” said Popcru spokesperson Richard Mamabolo.
“The correctional centres have been used as money-making schemes through abusing the tender process and we have seen that through the Bosasa case.”
The department of correctional services became embroiled in state capture allegations through the revelation of dodgy contracts with disgraced firm Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations.
Mamabolo said most of the inmates in South Africa’s prisons remained idle in their waking hours due to a lack of vocational training facilities and programmes.
He said this and understaffed prisons made conditions ripe for violence. The most violent DCS facility inspected was the Potchefstroom remand detention facility in North West.
This, according to the report, was mainly due to gangs from local mines operating in the facility.
Also noted in the report was St Albans in Port Elizabeth, which was also found to be violent, with gangs very active in the centre.
Not only are inmates victims of gang-related attacks, DCS officials are also often targeted.
“An inmate could walk out of prison and nobody could stop him because the number of inmates is so high, compared to the staff numbers, which have been declining due to some being charged or suspended because management is suppressing us,” lamented Mamabolo.
“We have been of the view that prisons should be self-sustaining and prisoners should be given skills, like welding, cooking and so on.
“But they decided to have tenders instead and now, because of the Bosasa case, we know where all that money went.”
The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services recorded 103 unnatural deaths, many due to unknown causes.
Inmates between the ages of 35 and 50 died most frequently. – email@example.com
The Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services (JICS) wants the department of correctional services (DCS) to deal more expeditiously with mentally ill patients, which the body felt did not belong in prison.
Mental health in prison
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