Quarter of prison inmates yet to be sentenced

2014-10-01 21:49

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Well over a quarter of the people in prisons around the country have not yet been sentenced, according to Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha.

“As at March 28 [this year], 157 170 people were in custody, of which 113 458 were sentenced offenders, and 43 712 were remand detainees,” he says in the foreword to his department’s recently tabled 2013/14 annual report.

Masutha says this figure – 27.8 percent of the total inmates – is of major concern.

“The number of remand detainees is a major concern, and progress is being made to address this. Since 2004, the inmate population has reduced by 30 470 resulting in a saving of more than R1.4 billion to the fiscus.”

According to the report, the correctional services department operates 243 facilities, 15 of them with a “bed capacity” of more than 1500.

On security within prisons, it found that during the period April 1, 2013, to March 31 this year, 6884 inmates were assaulted. There were 996 incidents of gang-related violence, an increase of more than 50 percent on the previous 12 months.

There were 39 escapes, and 61 “unnatural deaths”, of which 21 were suicides, nine from assaults, and 24 due to “causes unknown”. The balance was due to medical overdoses (four), accidents (two) and food poisoning (one).

According to the document, there is an “overall security underperformance ... that is inextricably linked to the difficult challenges of managing security in the context of overcrowding and increasingly aggressive inmates with long sentences”.

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