The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) is investigating two correctional centres over the alleged assault of inmates using cricket bats, and strip or cavity searches of members of the public.
A comprehensive report on the findings with recommendations is expected to be submitted at Parliament, to Minister Ronald Lamola and Department of Correctional Services (DCS) leadership.
According to JICS’s spokesperson, Lennard de Souza, complaints from inmates who were allegedly assaulted at Mossel Bay Youth Correctional Centre by officials were lodged on December 12, 2023.
Six days later the inspectorate commenced its investigation into the alleged assault and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of three juvenile inmates.
“The investigators uncovered prima facie evidence that officials regularly use cricket bats to assault juvenile inmates as a form of punishment.
Medical records available to JICS appear to confirm this finding.
“This is contrary to DCS policy and South African law.
“The identities of the DCS officials allegedly implicated in the assault are known to JICS,” said De Souza.
The inspectorate also received complaints from several female members of the public, who testified they were allegedly subjected to invasive, degrading and inappropriate searches when seeking to visit their incarcerated family members at the St Albans Maximum Correctional Centre.
The complainants further claimed that even young girls were subjected to inappropriate searches.
“In the course of JICS’s investigation, more members of the public have come forward with similar accounts of grossly inappropriate searches, including strip searches and cavity searches by certain officials. DCS policies available to JICS indicate that the appropriate method for searching members of the public is through a pat-down search or through body scanners or metal detectors.
The department’s policy does not make provision for strip or cavity searches of members of the public.
“The practices described to JICS appear to violate the department’s policy and amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Despite engagements with regional DCS leadership, these practices persisted throughout the festive season at St Albans Maximum Correctional Centre. DCS is currently investigating the allegations and JICS awaits DCS’s findings,” said De Souza.
DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo questioned what DCS was expected to do with people who hide contraband in their private parts “as these people were being nabbed during the festive season”.
“What can assist the process is for JICS to table a report with facts so that we engage on what has been affirmed to be the truth. Right now we are dealing with the allegations. What has been stated at (Mossel Bay Youth Correctional Centre) is disturbing and we will prefer that the investigation be allowed time to provide facts,” he said.