Home South African Overcrowding and suicide a concern in SA prisons

Overcrowding and suicide a concern in SA prisons

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A report by the Department of Correctional Services portfolio committee on justice states that overcrowding in correctional facilities in excess of approved bed spaces impacts on the safety and security of inmates and the humane conditions of inmates.

Delays in completion of infrastructure projects due to budget restructuring has led to overcrowding at prison facilities in South Africa. File Picture: Sibusiso Ndlovu

DELAYS in the completion of infrastructure projects due to budget restructuring has led to overcrowding at prison facilities in South Africa.

A report by the Department of Correctional Services portfolio committee on justice states that overcrowding in correctional facilities in excess of approved bed spaces impacts on the safety and security of inmates and the humane conditions of inmates.

The total number of inmates on March 31 this year was 143,223, against the approved bed space of 108,804.

The inmate population is made up of 96,079 sentenced offenders, 47,020 remand detainees, 123 state patients and one mental health care user incarcerated.

The report also revealed that unnatural deaths in correctional facilities were a concern.

Unnatural deaths increased from 47 in 2020/21 to 54 in 2021/22.

Suicide was the leading cause of unnatural deaths in correctional facilities due to a lack of patrolling in the units, which is required in terms of standard operating procedures.

Statistics in the report stated that the inmate population increased by 2,275 inmates from 140,948 to 143,223 inmates between 2020/2021 and 2021/2022.

The bed space total was adjusted from 110,836 in 2020/21 to 108,804 in 2021/22.

The report said a total of 758 bed spaces were lost due to the partial or full closure of correctional centres, ie Umzinto, Ekuseni, Waterval Med B and Parys.

There are 1,805 offenders serving short-term sentences (less than 24 months) who cannot afford to pay fines, which further contributes to the rate of overcrowding.

Delays in the completion of infrastructure projects for bed space capacity had a negative impact on the department’s level of bed spaces resulting in overcrowding: the Emthonjeni project for 640 bed spaces did not commence as planned per the annual performance plan (APP) 2021/22.

The Parys and Burgersdorp project was for 176 and 311 bed spaces, respectively. The completion date was revised from 2022/23 to 2023/24 and 2024/25 to 2025/26.

At the Brandvlei Old Maximum facility, only R11 million of the allocated budget of R21m for the creation of 690 bed spaces was used during the year due to the reallocation of Covid-19 isolation cells.

The committee recommended the national commissioner engage with the accounting officer of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure to ensure compliance with the completion dates of the infrastructure projects.

The committee said DCS management should protectively manage the budget and progress of the projects. As for the percentage of offender profiles approved for placement by the Correctional Supervision and Parole Boards (CSPBs) the committee found that there was a lack of support systems, offenders’ further charges, victim-offender dialogue processes outstanding, and psychological and social work interventions outstanding which compelled the CSPB to approve further profiles.

The committee found irregular expenditure of R755 million because of splitting of orders.

The committee recommended that consequences for transgressions and poor performances were not adequately implemented by management. There was also instability in the DCS because of vacancies in key positions.

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