Prison confiscates study materials of inmate legal eagle

2017-05-15 16:25
Kgosi Mampuru II prison in Pretoria. (Supplied to GroundUp)

Kgosi Mampuru II prison in Pretoria. (Supplied to GroundUp)

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Pretoria - The Tshwane prisoner who successfully took Correctional Services to court for failing to consider a fellow inmate's application for medical parole has had his study materials taken away from him at Kgosi Mampuru II prison in Pretoria.

On 9 May GroundUp published an article that described Piet Kgwatedi Mokwena's battle to have Mike Phahlamohlaka, who has a brain tumour, considered for medical parole.

Following this, officials searched Mokwena's cell and confiscated his computer, USB, all his legal documents, his cellphone and his modem, GroundUp reported.

Neither the cellphone nor the modem is allowed in prison, but Mokwena has been authorised to use his personal computer.

He is currently studying toward an LLB with Unisa and has exams coming up this month. He also needs to submit portfolios for two of his courses. The information that he needs for this is on his computer.

Mokwena told his lawyer Clare Ballard from Lawyers for Human Rights that once the items were found, he was charged and a disciplinary hearing was conducted. He pleaded guilty to having a modem and a cellphone and was sanctioned to 30 days without visitation.

Minimum rights

Mokwena told Ballard that the sanction doesn't include the revocation of the authorisation for him to access his personal computer.

After attempting to get the computer back from the head of Security, Mokwena told Ballard that the head of Security said that he is a prisoner and not a lawyer and was not allowed to represent other offenders in court.

The head of Security also allegedly said that he had revoked Mokwena's authorisation to possess the computer, USB stick and bundle of documents.

Mokwena believes that the head of Security's actions are illegal as the Correctional Services Act prevents officials from violating the minimum rights of offenders which include access to reading material.

He also said that being sanctioned to 30 days without visits is not a prescribed provision in the Correctional Services Act.

Three inmates at Kgosi Mapuru II have previously won their case against Correctional Services, where they argued that they should be allowed to use laptops in their cells as they were studying.

Correctional Services responds

Department of Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo told GroundUp that after a routine search a number of unauthorised items were found. 

“These are considered to be contraband items considering that Mr Mokoena’s approved Internal Hard Drive (HDD) size was 160GB according to our records, however the HDD found on the day of the search was 80GB.

“Conditions of having a computer states that any hardware nor a software taken out or inserted in the computer must have a clearance and must be thoroughly inspected. This condition was violated. It was also found that he accessed social networking sites and other websites which were not authorised by the Department,” said Nxumalo.

While his authorised USB was returned immediately, “it was found that he used his computer to surf the internet, which is prohibited by the conditions and therefore, stands to forfeit the privilege of having a computer in his cell for a period to be determined by the Head of Centre.”

“The offender is still allowed to use the UNISA Hub facility where there are computers connected to the internet for the purposes of studying. His Legal documents will be returned as soon as they are cleared by our security officials.”

He said that it was standard to sanction inmates with loss of visitation.

Read more on:    pretoria  |  education  |  prisons

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