SA’s prison hell: crime, overcrowding, suicides and struggling staff

Cape Town – It’s been described as hell and a microcosm of the country. These are our prisons, where crime is rife and where close to 500 inmates have died, 82 of unnatural causes.

The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) released its report on Thursday and it describes a situation of overcrowding and funding shortages for the inspectorate to do its job, leading to a visit to a prison only every three years.

It found that suicide is the most common type of unnatural death in the prisons with the majority occurring in Gauteng. The province recorded 10 suicides, Western Cape four, Eastern Cape two, KwaZulu-Natal five, Free State and Northern Cape four, and three others in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West.

During the 2017/18 financial year, 487 inmates died from natural causes, representing about 310 natural deaths per 100.000 of the inmate population.

Gauteng recorded the highest number of deaths, at 119. Commenting on the report, Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said the figures should be no surprise.

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