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What is Prison Like in South Africa?

what is prison like in south africa

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In South Africa, the rigid racial segregation that existed in prisons in South Africa began to change in late 1980s and early 1990 when the law removed all references to race. Prison reform During the political handover and at the beginning of the new term, it was included on the political agenda.

It was during this transformative period that it was important to recognize the rights of prisoners. The 1993 saw the amendment to prison law that allowed solitary confinement as well as punishment on a single person. The prohibition of diet and corporal punishment for prisoners was lifted. This is the clear reflection of There have been more changes in society that has gone from formal racial segregation in every aspect of life to formal democracy over the past two decades.

The court in Minister of Justice v Hofmeyer, 1993, recognized the principle that a prisoner has all of his personal rights, except those that are abridged under law. It also recognized that the content and extent of these rights should be determined not only by the legislation but also by the common-law rights for prisoners.

The concept of prisoners’ rights was strengthened by the introduction of the interim and the final Constitutions. The Constitution guarantees the protection of human dignity and liberty, as well as the protection against cruel, degrading, or inhuman treatment or punishment. It also provides protections for those detained, accused, and arrested. S 35(2) covers the rights of detained or arrested persons. It includes the right to “conditions of custody that are consistent with humanity; including exercise and provision at the state expense of adequate accommodation, nutrition and medical treatment.”

The court affirmed in S V Makwanyane that, although imprisonment may impair dignity, a prisoner doesn’t lose all rights upon entering prison. Chaskelson P. stated that although imprisonment is a harsh punishment, prisoners still have all rights under the Constitution. However, they are limited by their prison regime.

In 1998, the new Correctional Services Act was drafted. It takes into consideration the new imperative of human right. It recognizes international principles in correctional matters. It also establishes mandatory minimum rights for all prisoners. These rights cannot be withheld for any other reason.

The Department of Correctional Services has a triple purpose according to the new Act:

– Executing sentences in accordance with the Correctional Services Act
– Safe custody of all persons.
– To promote the social responsibility of all prisoners and to encourage human development.

Only a few sections of the progressive piece of legislation have been enacted in the three years that have passed since its promulgation. The majority of the major sections, relating to treatment of prisoners, discipline and release, are still on paper. Initial indications by the Department of Correctional Services were that the delay was caused by the need to rewrite regulations and the accompanying standing orders. Although the Act was subject to several amendments, it is expected that the Act will be passed in its entirety by 2001.

These delays led to confusion over the proper treatment of prisoners. The old Correctional Services Act 8 (1959) and part of this new act are not applicable to all aspects. Since 1996, the Department of Correctional Services has been subject to a policy of demilitarization in accordance with the liberal and humane legislative approach. This is in the hope that it will help in rehabilitation. It involved changing the ranks, structure and address of prison officers, as well as removing insignia and ending militarized daily parades. The creation of a new civil structure and mode for discipline was central to this process.

In practice, the demilitarization of the prison system and all it implies for the treatment prisoners and the respect given to their legal rights has not been more than partially successful. However, the prisons administration is still characterized by a quasimilitary approach to management and culture. Although they no longer have ranks or visible insignia, prisoners and members sometimes refer to warders as their military rank. Khaki uniforms and heavy boots bear strong resemblances to army uniforms. The reason there is some resistance to the law’s more humane policy of demilitarisation is that it has been conceptualized in a narrow, mechanistic way.

The reforms were met with suspicion by prison personnel who had come to appreciate their military-like status, and who saw them as a threat their personal and professional security. If legislation does not change the nature of harsh prison systems, it is likely that resistance from a section in the state bureaucracy, which sees reform as a threat, is the reason.

Conditions in prison

Along with the resistance of a prisons bureaucracy determined on protecting its privileges, and resisting reform, are the problems presented by the large number of prisoners sent to prison and the subsequent overcrowding within the prison system.

Despite the repeal of the notorious pass-laws, and a variety of apartheid regulations that had increased prison population under the National Party rule, the prison population has continued its rise. The prison population has seen a significant increase, rising from 113,856 inmates in 1994, to 170,328 on 31/12 2000. This is due to a 30% increase in prison sentences, but more importantly, a shocking 117% growth in the overall population. There are many variations between prisons. A prison like Pollsmoor, Western Cape, may have more than 200% population, while others could have as high as 39%. However, prisons like Malmesbury and Goodwood are specifically designed to hold a specific number of prisoners. They cannot exceed their target numbers.

The increase in prison population is largely due to the rise in reported crimes since 1994. Delays in processing court cases are also partially responsible for the increase in people awaiting trial. Due to system backlogs, December 2000 saw an average prisoner spend 136 days waiting for trial. This is up from 76 days in June 1996.

There are instances where prisoners spend two or more years in prison awaiting trial. The state spends R5.6 million per day to house prisoners in awaiting trial.27 Changes in bail laws and sentencing also contribute to the increase in prison population. The 1996 bail laws were changed to make it easier for someone accused of a serious offense to show why they should be granted bail.

It was therefore more difficult to grant bail, especially for indigent defendants who were not represented at bail hearings. Many accused cannot afford bail for lesser offenses and are forced to spend time in prison while they await their trial. The Bureau for Justice Assistance reported in 1998 that over 20,000 prisoners awaiting trial had been granted bail, but were then forced to serve their sentences.

They will remain in prison because they cannot afford bail. Prison overcrowding is, therefore, in part, a reflection on the large number of people without significant assets who, if they are in trouble with law, are more likely to be detained. It is also a result of a stronger public demand for punishment, which is clearly contrary to the official policy on rehabilitating offenders. This is where South Africa’s prisons best reflect the difference between the official policy of rehabilitation and the expectations of the public. It’s similar to the gap between the provisions of one the most notorious criminal justice systems in the world.

Liberal constitutions and some realities of South African society

A bill was passed to provide minimum sentencing for serious offenses in response to public demand
In 1997.30 Lukas Muntingh’s study indicated that prison sentences are getting longer. Although many prisoners are sentenced to shorter sentences than six months prison inmates received sentences that lasted more than two years in 1984, as opposed to 31% in 1999. Public pressure also prompted the creation of the law on parole.
This was amended in 1997 to extend the time that prisoners must serve before they are eligible for parole.32 The law states that every prisoner should have served at least half their sentence or 25 years before they can be released. A court can grant a non-parole period up to two-thirds for certain offenses. A life sentenced prisoner may not be released until the completion of 25 years or when he or she reaches the age of 65. To date, he has completed 15 years of his sentence. Abolition of death penalty has also led to a rise in the number of long-term prison sentences.

Some judges think that imprisonment is too harsh for certain types of crimes. They also doubt the ability of the Department or parole board to make the right decision regarding early release. Some judges have imposed life sentences and even extended sentences. Presidential decrees that allow for special amnesties or pardons, such as those issued shortly after the inauguration of the new government and to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s 80th birthday, have not made a lasting impression. They have been harshly criticized. Public. Similar efforts to reduce prison population through special measures have not had an impact on overall overcrowding. The Independent Inspectoring Judge pressured 3,000 prisoners who had been sentenced and had their parole dates approved to be released early from prison in October.

A further 8 were released pending their trial. The 12,000 prison inmates were immediately released, but the prison population had increased to a new high by the end. All other measures to reduce prison overcrowding have failed. The Department of Correctional Services ordered the construction of three new prisons. Two of these are being managed and constructed by private companies. However, this will not increase total capacity more than 8,000. The Department of Correctional Services has taken other steps to implement the recommendations of the judicial inspectorate. These include using so-called “community corrections” for low-risk individuals. Electronic monitoring is used to monitor prisoners in custody while they await trial.

Many changes were made in South Africa’s law and prison policy during the democratic transition. These changes were intended to have a humane impact. The new legal framework is free from racial discrimination, and is focused on the rights and obligations of prisoners. This creates the foundation for a prison system that is in line with the standards of modern democracy, which South Africa claims to be.

As in other aspects of society, attitudes and vested interest of a deeply illiberal nature that were often rooted in apartheid era times continue to exist in prisons. Many of the laws passed have not been implemented. The prison administration’s ability to meet basic rights and necessities is being overwhelmed by rising prison populations, which often results from the overwhelming public demand for the suppression of crime. The official rehabilitation and development goals are being seriously stifled as a result. The Department of Correctional Services’ budget has been significantly increased in recent years but it has not had an impact on prison conditions.

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