Prisons can accommodate disabled: dept

By Drum Digital
14 October 2014

The correctional services department lashed out at claims made during Oscar Pistorius court proceedings that prisons were unable to accommodate disabled prisoners.

The correctional services department on Tuesday lashed out at claims made during Oscar Pistorius court proceedings that prisons were unable to accommodate disabled prisoners.

"Our centres can cater for disabled inmates as [they] have some currently serving sentences," said departmental spokesman advocate Mthunzi Mhaga.

Earlier, a social worker and probation officer testified during Pistorius's sentencing proceedings in the High Court in Pretoria that she did not believe the paralympian was safe in prison.

"They cannot eliminate his vulnerability and they cannot secure his safety," Annette Vergeer said under cross-examination from prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

She suggested that the kind of cement flooring, shower and toilet facilities found in prisons were not suitable for someone with Pistorius's disability.

Vergeer also raised the possibility that Pistorius could be vulnerable to violence, including rape, behind bars.

Pistorius had both legs amputated below the knee as a baby and wears prosthetics. Mhaga said that while the department respected the sub judice rule, it deemed it appropriate to respond to the allegations raised in court. "The reports [in court] seek to create an impression that our centres are fraught with, among other things, unhygienic conditions, gang violence and rape...

"Such allegations about the conditions in our centres are inaccurate".

Mhaga said the department was willing to make its expert officials available to the court at any stage required.

Earlier, the court heard that Vergeer compiled her report on Pistorius based on a visit to Johannesburg prison ten years ago and the Krugersdorp prison two years ago, as well as through consultation with wardens and social workers.

It was also revealed that Vergeer had been paid by the defence to compile the report -- in which she recommended that Pistorius get three years of correctional supervision and community service for killing Steenkamp.

On September 12, Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide for the Valentine's Day 2013 shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his Pretoria townhouse. He has maintained throughout that he thought she was an intruder.

Judge Thokozile Masipa also found Pistorius guilty of discharging a firearm in public during an incident at a Johannesburg restaurant. Two other firearm related charges were dismissed.

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