The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) says it is concerned about the number of unnatural deaths in prison. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Town - The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) says it is concerned about the number of unnatural deaths in prison.

The unnatural death of inmates in correctional facilities in the country has been on the increase since 2016.

This emerged in a preliminary report sent to the justice and correctional services minister, his deputy, the national commissioner of correctional services and the National Assembly committee on justice and correctional services chairperson, by the Inspecting Judge of Correctional Services, Justice Johann van der Westhuizen.

JICS spokesperson Emerantia Cupido, said they were investigating the deaths.

“The total amount of unnatural deaths reported since 2016 (62), 2017 (52). Last year (82) and this year (103) totalling 299, with a marked increase in the past two years.”

“The figure for April - October 31 was 64 unnatural deaths,” Cupido said.

Zia Wasserman, national prison co-ordinator for Sonke Gender Justice, said the increase was concerning.

“We require more qualitative data from both JICS and Correctional Services in order to understand this worrying situation. This is particularly so given that the majority of unnatural deaths are often due to ‘unknown causes’ as a result of delayed autopsies,” Wasserman said the department had a responsibility to keep detainees in safe custody which was clearly not happening for many people. 

Reagen Allen, MPL and DA Western Cape spokesperson for community safety, said these gangs still control criminal empires, despite being behind bars, and prison authorities are also at risk. “The concern is that when they are released, they continue to torment communities,” Allen said.

The JICS recommended that inmates must be supervised at all times when working in the kitchen. Correctional services department must also report all mandatory complaints to the office of the Inspecting Judge within 48 hours as prescribed by the Act.

They also recommended Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) to be more active and conduct regular inspections to ensure the centre complies with safety regulations.

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Cape Argus