Jan 20, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

Solitary confinement in SA prisons violates human rights: inspectorate

The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Institutions (JICS) has reiterated its stance on solitary confinement in SA prisons, calling it a violation of human rights.

The JICS conducted three unannounced measures of inspection last year at:

  • Ebongweni Super Maximum Correctional Center in KwaZulu-Natal;
  • Kgosi Mampuru II C-Max Correctional Center in Pretoria; and
  • The Mangaung Public-Private Partnership Correctional Center in Bloemfontein.

It confirmed that solitary confinement and extended solitary confinement occurred in Ebongweni and Kgosi Mampuru.

“In these two centers, inmates sit alone in a solitary cell for 22 to 23 hours a day, without stimulation or human contact. There is an hour of exercise – not with other inmates, but alone in an isolated exercise cage,” it said.

“Food is provided through a thin letterbox splitter. The initial period of solitary confinement spans at least six months.”

Despite the facilities housing the most dangerous and violent inmates, JICS said it remained deeply concerned about the harsh effects of solitary confinement .

“These include serious long-term health problems. These range from depression to suicidal thoughts. These serious consequences should be matched by the lack of evidence showing that solitary confinement deters crime.”

The inspectorate said in a report by former coroner Johannvan der Westhuizen from the Year 2019 titled “From Safety to Cruelty? Supermax Correctional Centres: Ebongweni” received attention from Makgothi Thobakgale, Acting National Commissioner of Correctional Services, who denied that solitary confinement took place at the supermaximal facility.

“The findings in the JICS report are noted and acknowledged. Inmates are kept in their cells for 23 hours and are given one hour of exercise, which is in line with the facility’s standard operating procedures. The structural design of the facility means that offenders are housed in individual cells. Other activities and services provided are aligned to the phases carried out. This can be perceived as solitary confinement, which is not the case. It is intended to segregate according to regulations.”

Additionally, verified Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Ebongweni and C-Max Correctional Institutions were provided to JICS.

The regulator said, official responses from the Department of Correctional Services to their 2021 reports are pending.

“JICS has submitted these reports to the Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee, the Minister for Justice and Correctional Services and the Deputy Minister for Correctional Services.”

JICS said it would look at the summary of the DCS and review the SOPs and make further recommendations in due course.

“Solitary confinement is at odds with SA’s commitment to a human rights approach in Regarding Crime and Punishment. It was used during apartheid. Our democracy has rightly removed this inhumane practice from the Correctional Services Act. We must ensure that prison conditions are compatible with the human dignity and good health of inmates.”