They are no longer called prisons or prisoners, that would be far too demeaning. They are now “inmates” of “correctional centres”.
Violent crime seems to be on the increase, or could it simply be a wider press coverage of crime because of increased access to electronic media?
Whatever the case may be there’s seldom a week without a newspaper photograph of a bunch of murderers or muggers sitting in court grinning like happy idiots after being found guilty of some shocking crime.
Nobody, it seems, takes a prison sentence very seriously.
I looked up several internet sites describing the regulations governing the treatment of prisoners in South African prisons.
(They are no longer called prisons or prisoners, that would be far too demeaning. They are now “inmates” of “correctional centres”.)
I found reams of information about the “human rights” of prison inmates and it seems once you’ve been admitted to a “correctional centre” your human rights are of paramount importance.
There are all sorts of ways in which inmates can report infringements of their human rights.
I found no mention of the human rights of the people who had been robbed, assaulted, raped or murdered in order to gain access to the correctional centres.
There doesn’t appear to be much of a stigma attached to being sent to a correctional centre. After all, some of our most respected leaders spent time in prison and many more deserve to be there today.
Inmates have a human right to be fed, housed, exercised, allowed to vote and given free medical care. Given the fact that there are more than sixmillion unemployed people in South Africa who enjoy none of those things, a couple of years in a correction centre might seem quite an attractive career choice. No wonder those sentenced murderers on the front page don’t look particularly glum.
Maybe it’s time to get the big brains in the country together to think up alternative forms of punishment for violent crimes. There must be ways of subjecting offenders to horrible punishments without (heaven forbid!) infringing upon their precious human rights.
One of my friends suggested all inmates should have to surrender all their clothing on admission to the centre, and spend the duration of their sentence wearing clown outfits or tutus and high heels. Scornful laughter can be a powerful weapon.
Another suggestion is that correctional centres for those convicted of violent crimes should be located in remote, rural areas far from the big cities, where their fellow gangsters and buddies can’t communicate very easily with them.
Or would that be a violation of their precious human rights?
In a little country village the police sergeant also acted as the local veterinary surgeon because there was no qualified vet in the area. One night his telephone rang and his wife answered.
“May I speak to Mr Jansen please?” said a voice.
“Is this in connection with police business or animal care?” his wife asked.
“Well, both actually,” said the caller. “I can’t get my Rottweiler to open his jaws and there’s a burglar in them.”