There are 29679 inmates in prisons, but only 20779 official bed spaces, reads the report. There are 16520 males and 594 females in prison in the Western Cape. Picture: Brenton Geach/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Cape Town - Pollsmoor prison has been pinpointed as the most overcrowded prison in the Western Cape.

Medium B, which houses males, is more than 200% overcrowded.

Delivering the annual report of the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons, Justice Johann van der Westhuizen said the reason for overcrowding varied from high crime levels to reluctance by the judiciary to grant bail for serious crimes, to the effects of minimum sentencing.

There are 29679 inmates in prisons, but only 20779 official bed spaces, reads the report. There are 16520 males and 594 females in prison in the Western Cape.

The Department of Correctional Services' annual performance plan for 2018/2019 stated that overcrowding was the main contributor to assault and escapes. Over the past three financial years, the Department reported an increase in the number of inmates who escaped, the number of assault injuries,, and the number of unnatural deaths.

There were 28 cases of suicide reported across the prisons where 20 inmates died as a result of hanging themselves. Majority of the suicides occurred in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

The JICS is also working towards becoming an independent body to provide better oversight of the correctional services across South Africa as they are currently under the legislation of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS). On December 13, 2016, Sonke Gender Justice filed an application in the Western Cape High Court seeking to overturn the provision within the Correctional Services Act, that that JICS get its funding and report to the department.

“The high court found that the fact that JICS is accountable to the very department that is supposed to oversee it is not constitutional. JICS therefore needs to find another form of being accountable financially and we are committed to co-operate with DCS regarding our independence, however we are frustrated with the lack of proper responses from DCS,” Van der Westhuizen said.

The Department of Correctional Services' annual performance plan for 2018/2019 stated that overcrowding was the main contributor to assault and escapes.

Over the past three financial years, the Department reported an increase in the number of inmates who escaped, the number of assault injuries, and the number of unnatural deaths. There were 28 cases of reported suicides. Most were in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

The Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services is also working towards becoming an independent body to provide better oversight of the correctional services in South Africa because it is under the legislation of the Department of Correctional Services. On December 13, 2016, Sonke Gender Justice filed an application in the Western Cape High Court seeking to overturn the provision within the Correctional Services Act, in that the Services get its funding and report to the Department.

Van der Westhuizen said the high court found that the fact that the Services was accountable to the very department that was supposed to oversee it, was not constitutional. He said it needed to find another form of being accountable financially. He said "we are committed to co-operate with Department of Correctional Services regarding our independence, however we are frustrated with the lack of proper responses".

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