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Onthatile Mogotji
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First and foremost everyone is a basic human being

11 June 2014, 07:32

Nobody in his right mind would ever resolve to taking people hostage, provided off course, that he has the opportunity to voice his opinion, his complaint and or request and the person who is attending to it does something constructive about it, and attempts with everything that is humanly possible to rectify, the problem at hand.

The question that every one of us should understand is, we are all, first and foremost basic human beings, and then we are (whatever that person in his own mind and through his actions may decide what he or she want to be)

Being in a correctional environment every offender is being subject to conditions and circumstances, which may in a lot of ways, be contradictory that that he or she has grown up with or are used to. Family problems arise with incarceration, and the breakdown of this, is what affects every single offender in this country the most. He has been removed from society due to whatever crime he has committed, are being isolated in a correctional centre, which in many cases are far away from where his family actually resides, are subject to conditions and circumstances, gangsters, racial conflicts, and many other circumstances which he or she now has to adopt to and get used to.

This in itself takes its toll, and is the foundation of a lot of problems, which could have been eliminated especially so for the entirely different circumstances that the person now has to adapt to.

The Department of Correctional Services are faced with problems, major problems, which have come about with changes in the justice system with the introduction of minimum sentences, and correctional centres are bursting at its seams with overcrowding. A country of 52 million people has nearly 200 000 of its citizens locked up, whereas in the United States of America with a population of 290 million, they only have 140 000 people who are incarcerated. The statistics in this case proves that there is a major problem, and the contributing factors are the Department of Justice, the outcry of the public against criminals and courts sentencing people to 15 years imprisonment for taking an R 500 bribe! How ridiculous the whole situation is!

Correctional centres, especially so in all of the metropolitan areas are overcrowding to its maxim. The density of the population in the area, and people being incarcerated are more than the centres that are supposed to be housing them can or was ever built for. In many a centre, you find that a cell, that has one toilet, one Crip, one shower and two wash basins, and then may I add never any hot water, and was originally designed to accommodate 42 people now houses 140!! Lice are eating up the offenders in that the necessary precautions and or health inspections lack in its conspicuous absence, health care, is either non-existent or lacks totally in addressing the issues at hand, food and or anything which a grown adult needs as a nutrition on a daily basis are lacking in size and volume, and offenders are drowned in pap and dry bread!

To add insult to injury, members who are supposed to be playing a role in the rehabilitation of the offenders, come to work at 8am in the morning and by 2pm they knock off, and remember then they also take a one hour lunch. That in effect means that they only work for 5 hours a day, for which they are being paid handsomely. And then many a day, they have meetings, and cells are opened at 10am when breakfast is served and at 12 noon lunch and at 2pm its lock up again.

Televisions, radios are not allowed in the centre, and in many there are not even a library that has books which offenders can take out to read in all those ‘locked up times!” Letters that are posted in the system, takes two months to reach its destination because someone who is supposed to clear the mail box daily to ensure that there are no letters to be posted, only does so, once in a month.

So what I am saying is that a day has 24 hours and only 5 of those hours, and offender is allowed to be able to outside of the cell environment and for the remaining 19 he is locked up in a cage. This isolation adds up to frustration, and the frustration starts to build up amongst the occupants of the cell and then for the smallest of instance, violence can erupt. And is there someone from the Department on duty that can assist in a case of emergency – NO, as there are only one member on standby in a section and the master key to unlock cells is not available to him or her, in any case of emergency. People die in cells at 5pm in the afternoon and their bodies are removed at 1100am the next morning. The cultural cleansing, heritage and respect that should be shown towards the dead, is completely ignored as ‘just too much work for any Departmental employee to even attempt to address!’

Systems, books are in place, where complaints and requests are to be lodged and a feedback report should be forthcoming within 7 days after the report is lodged, but members refuse to lodge and register a complaint or request in the book, because that would mean that they would have to get up from their chair and do some work. So the book conveniently shows that there were no complaints or requests for the day, and meanwhile back at the ranch, people tried to resolve their problems, but no one listens. Social workers, psychologist are employed by the Department but try and get and appointment – it can take you up to a year, and then you have to start with writing a request, which the member of the section do not want to register in the book. So the situation becomes a catch 22 situation, and who is stuck in the middle – the offender. He can’t contact his family because the phones are locked throughout the week, which also does not allow him to even phone his legal representative, because, the Head of the Centre, decided to lock the phones, because “people were reporting him to higher authority for not doing his work!” so now everyone has to suffer and may I add, the fact that he is not doing his work is factual as if he was doing it he would be a leader that would ensure that his employees are doing what they have been mandated for, and had no fear in leaving the phones open as he would be doing his work that he is paid for.

So no wonder offenders resort to taking members hostage – they become desperate and trying to resolve their problems, all genuine may I add, and at the end of the day, the Department blames the offender for acting in this way. But he would have never reacted in that way, had his complaint or request been attended to in the first instance, which it never was.

How can you expect someone to be sent from Johannesburg to be detained in Bloemfontein, 300 kilometres away from his family and that offender being content with not being able to see his family? Is that humane to do things like that? No definitely absolutely NO! But that is what happens, it doesn’t matter what your personal circumstances may be, where you family resides, but when the Department says you have to be transferred to another facility, you just have to pack your bags, because if you don’t they call the EST to force you to pack up and go! Like being treated worse than a dog!

But if you have money – the Department especially its employees welcome you with open arms, because they smoke your cigarettes, when you smuggle money into the prison, after coming back from visit you are not properly searched, as they will get their cut, and when food which is meant to feed offenders are brought, they are first in line to get their free meal!

What a circus, what a show. The Justice Department even appointed and pay Independent Prison Visitors to attend to problems that may affect offenders which are not being solved, but even lodging a complaint with them, will never ever be attended to or resolved, so everything is only about me, myself and I and how much I can get paid to do absolutely nothing! NO wonder people resort to such drastic measure in their attempt to have their problem, complain and or request attended to.

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