JICS stakeholder meeting at Leeuwkop Correctional Centre

KYLA HERRMANNSEN

Overcrowding was the focus of this week’s stakeholders meeting held in Leeuwkop Correctional Centre. The meeting was organised by the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) and was attended by various DCS officials, Independent Correctional Centre Visitors (ICCVs), the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), Sonke Gender Justice as well as other NGOs and civil society groups. Lala Mabaso of JICS noted that most correctional centres in the country are 200% overcrowded.

The prison population of South Africa currently stands at 156 000. Minister of Correctional Services, Sibusiso Ndebele recently announced that “as at August 20 this year, there are a total of 156 370 inmates in our correctional facilities, of which 112 416 are sentenced offenders, and 43 954 are remand detainees.” A quarter of detainees are remand detainees.

Overcrowding in South African prisons is high – statistics showed it was at 28% as of July 30 this year. “The department committed itself to reduce the level of overcrowding by at least 2% per annum in order to comply with the constitutional requirement to detain inmates under humane conditions,” said Ndebele in parliament.

Offenders at Leeuwkop Prison__jpg

Leeuwkop Prison has 4 centres – Maximum Security, Medium A, Medium C and a centre for Juvenilles. While the Juvenille centre is currently not at maximum occupation, the remaining three are all overcrowded. The Maximum security centre is running at 192,1 % occupation while Medium C is 126,6% over-populated. Correctional Co-ordinator for Leeuwkop, Vaughn Muller said the policy has changed from a ‘lock you up and throw away the key’ approach, to one that says “we must see if we can make you a better person before we release you.”

He pointed to communities as impacting upon the current over-crowding. “Family members do not want offenders back”, he said. He also noted that DCS faces great challenges when trying to confirm prisoners’ addresses if they are from rural areas which slows down the process of notifying the families before release, ultimately slowing down the release process. He touched on foreigners, saying they are in and out of Leeuwkop, despite being transferred to Lindela. He said, though, “I don’t want to talk about foreigners”.

Noting a high rate of gangsterism within prisons, he said cell phones are a serious security risk. “Just yesterday 26 cell phones were confiscated”, said  Muller. The cell phones are smuggled in by visitors and used to facilitate what he deemed to be a network of gangs on the outside. He said the question we should be asking communities is “are you assisting to prevent crime or are you boosting crime?”

Issues of substance abuse and health were also addressed in the meeting. Rod Walker of Alcoholics Anonymous noted that often “criminal activity evolves out of an inability to support an addiction”. He said alcoholics in prison aren’t ‘cured’ – they will most likely drink straight after release. Therefore, there is a need for a recovery programme within prisons to better equip inmates to deal with addiction upon release. He said that while AA used to operate in prisons across South Africa, they have recently hit a “stone wall of regulations from the Department of Correctional Services”. Area Commissioner Tlabo Thokolo said “we would definitely welcome you back”, in response.

The medical services offered at Leeuwkop were outlined. There is a regular dentist and psychiatrist that visits once a month.  Inmates are provided with ARVS and as of 31 July 2013 there are 476 inmates on ARVs. There is, however, currently no provision for an optometrist and a physiotherapist.

In closing, Mabaso said we need to remember that “nobody is born a criminal”. She pointed to the need for communities to realise that prisons are “not a dumping place” and that while DCS can play a role in rehabilitation, communities also have the responsibility of being ready to welcome inmates back after they have served their time. The theme of the meeting “we are all humans” encapsulated this sentiment.

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About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

One Response to JICS stakeholder meeting at Leeuwkop Correctional Centre

  1. Palesa says:

    I want to know what kind of prisoners from leeuwkop prison at medium a were arrested for

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