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The state of our prisons: Overcrowding, suicides and shortage of care for mental illness

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Overcrowding remains a serious problem in South African prisons and the situation of mentally-ill inmates has become urgent in light of recent deaths.

This is according to the latest annual report by the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS), which was able to visit 81 out of the country’s 243 correctional centres during the 2017/18 financial year.

Owing to financial and staff constraints, the JICS is only able to visit each of these centres once every three years.

The correctional centres collectively house more than 160 000 inmates, of which more than 16 000 are serving life sentences.

The report found that overcrowding remained a “serious and persisting” issue in prisons.

Eastern Cape prisons were the worst affected at 57% overcrowded, followed by Gauteng at 48% and the Western Cape at 45%.

Of concern was the treatment and future of inmates who have mental illnesses, especially those who were declared state patients in terms of the Mental Health Care Act and who were meant to be transferred to specialised facilities within 14 days of receiving notice.

“It has been previously reported by JICS that the circumstances regarding state patients were not acceptable. Their interim accommodation in prison, pending their transfer, is considered cruel and inhumane,” the report stated.

[Source: News24]
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