MPs want answers on prison deaths

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feb 25 prison bars AFP File photo

Cape Town - MP’s have called for the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services to be given teeth amid complaints that there have been no consequences for the 146 reported cases of unnatural deaths in prison since 2009.

“So many unnatural deaths, which means that there was foul play in one way or the other, and yet there have been no consequences,” chairman of Parliament’s correctional services oversight committee Vincent Smith remarked during hearings on the inspectorate’s annual report yesterday.

The report noted that 48 cases of unnatural death had been recorded for the 2011/12 reporting period, of which 12 were classified as homicides, 20 as suicides and in 16 cases no cause could be attributed because autopsies had not been done by the provincial health departments.

“I think what we are asking is, do you just report it to the [correctional services] department? Why isn’t it reported to SAPS, or whoever else,” Smith asked.

Inspecting Judge of Prisons Vuka Tshabalala responded that it was the fault of the legislation under which the inspectorate operates.

His CEO, Adam Carelse, elaborated: “Section 90 of the Correctional Services Act is clear on what the powers, functions and duties are of the judicial inspectorate and of the inspecting judge, and the act is very clear that we can only inspect, investigate, monitor and report.”

But Smith was not satisfied, saying:

“Because if you are expected to provide a service and if the tools of the trade restrict you from providing that service, then we would expect you to at least say so, so that we can advance that argument. You should be saying if you want us to do our work, as the lawmakers, we implore you to change the legislation.”

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