Concern over prison violence
Hlengiwe Mnguni, News24
Cape Town – The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services says it is concerned about the levels of violence in South African prisons.
This comes after reports that the oversight body's head, Judge Deon van Zyl, had asked the Department of Correctional services to review disciplinary measures meted out to three Boksburg prison warders who forced prisoners to eat human faeces after the prisoners had put it in the prison's food as part of a protest.
The warders were also charged with assault.
According to the report in The Star newspaper, one of the warders was given a final warning and fired while the other two were acquitted.
"I wouldn't say this is a daily occurrence, but it is a grave concern to us," said Gideon Morris, a spokesperson for the inspectorate which initially carried out investigations on the matter, told News24.
He said although assault complaints were not unusual, this was the first incident where inmates had been forced to eat faeces.
"We've receive a lot of complaints but never one similar to this one," he said.
Morris said although they receive report of correctional services officials assaulting inmates most assault complaints they received involved inmates assaulting each other.
While there are no reliable statistics on prison violence, feedback received from independent visitors appointed by the body to monitor prisons across the country showed that in the period between March 2008 and March 2009 a total of 2 884 complaints of inmates assaulting each other were recorded, while 2010 of officials assaulting inmates were recorded.
Complaints of inhumane treatment reached 4 223.
In June 2009, three correctional services officials were convicted of the murders of three Krugersdorp Correctional Centre inmates in 2007 and sentenced to 20 years each.
Vincent Smith, chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio on correctional services, told News24 that although he acknowledged that prison was a difficult environment to work in, there was no justification for violence.
"The line between going overboard and preventing an uprising is very thin," he said.
He said however that the actions of the warders did not help the situation.
Smith said there was "a whole host of reasons" why confrontations between warders and prisons were rife.
"It might be a lack of training or just pure abuse of power," he said.
He said he shared Van Zyl's view that "you can't just give a warning when someone assaults someone. It's not appropriate".
Smith said 13 inmates died at the hands of correctional services officials last year.
Minister requests report
Sapa reported on Wednesday that Department of Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has requested a full report on allegations against the warders.
"Minister Mapisa-Nqakula will further announce what steps will be taken after she has appraised herself with all the facts of the case," her spokesperson Sonwabo Mbananga was quoted as saying.
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