SA prisons 44% overcrowded
Cape Town - South Africa wanted to build seven more new prisons to help ease chronic overcrowding in its jails, the correctional services minister said on Thursday.
South Africa suffers some of the world's highest crime rates. About 50 people are murdered a day - slightly over the rate in the United States, which has six times South Africa's 50 million population.
Besides the overcrowding, prisons in Africa's biggest economy are blighted by gangs, corruption and inadequate staffing, the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons (JIP) says.
Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said in addition to Kimberley, seven new generation correctional centres with 3 000 beds each were being planned.
Correctional Services says the design of the new generation prisons are meant to facilitate rehabilitation and differ fundamentally from the older prisons which were primarily to "warehouse" inmates.
The minister said the Kimberley Correctional Centre, the country's first new generation prison, was expected to be commissioned in January next year. It will be built at a cost estimated at R700m.
Four other similar prisons in Klerksdorp, Nigel, East London and Paarl should be completed by 2012, Mapisa-Nqakula said.
"Smaller new generation correctional centres are also in an advanced stage (of construction)," she added.
The JIP director, Gideon Morris, said South Africa's 237 operational correctional centres were housing 165 230 prisoners in space meant for 114 822 inmates.
"Which means we are overcrowded by about 44%."
Morris said while JIP understood the rationale behind building new prisons, especially when replacing institutions dating back to the 18th century, the inspectorate was wary of building prisons unnecessarily.
"We have the highest number of people in jail in Africa and are one of the highest incarcerators in the world today. We don't want this to worsen," said Morris.