Picture: Pixabay

Durban - A prisoner at a KwaZulu-Natal correctional facility, who died two weeks after he severely burnt himself while taking a bath, is one of several cases under investigation by the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) following an increase in unnatural deaths at correctional centres. 

The inspectorate has expressed concern about the increase and has sent a preliminary report with recommendations to the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, the Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, the National Commissioner of Correctional Services and the Chair of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services.

JICS spokesperson, Emarentia Cupido, said the mentally ill patient was found sitting in a bath tub in September. 

Cupido said the cell in which the deceased was housed accommodated four beds.

"Two were older mentally ill males, one blind and the other wheelchair-bound. An official who was doing a head count before the end of his shift, noticed that the inmate was missing. Upon opening the section found the inmate inside the bath tub.  The inmate was given first aid and taken to hospital," she said. 

Cupido said it was possible that the inmate did not feel the heat of the water, due to his psychosis.

"Upon enquiry into his treatment, it was stated that he had been receiving medication for his mental condition. The Department of Correctional Services investigated the incident, and submitted a report on this matter in response to JICS' preliminary report," she said. 

JICS is also investigating two other cases in the Eastern Cape. 

In the first incident, an inmate died after he was electrocuted by a stove and in the second incident, a prisoner died after he was administered medication. 

Cupido said there has been a marked increase in the last two years. In 2018, there were 82 cases reported while in 2017, a total of 52 cases were reported. The figures for April 2019 – 31 October 2019, over a six month period, is 64 unnatural deaths," she said. 

Cupido said JICS has made several recommendations to the various departments.

The Mercury