Prisons in South Africa & Human Rights

Safe, secure environment for inmates a "non-negotiable"

Pretoria - Justice and Correctional Services Minister, Michael Masutha, says the incarceration of inmates within a safe, secure and human environment is a non-negotiable for the department.

"Human rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour and are protected as legal rights in national and international law," he said.

He said prisoner's rights were a non-negotiable and had to be respected.

The minister was speaking at the Kgosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria on Friday, where the department held an Africa Corrections Day event.

Minister Masutha said the Constitution and Bill of Rights required the department to protect and promote democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.

He said more still needs to be done to effectively correct offending behaviour and break the cycle of crime.

To this end, the department has embarked on a drive to recruit and retain scarce skills to enhance its capacity to implement rehabilitation programmes aimed at breaking the cycle of crime among offenders.

"We are confident that within our holistic approach, our psychologists, social workers, healthcare professionals, teachers, artisans and correctional services officials can make a positive contribution to the rehabilitation and successful reintegration of offenders," he said.

With regard to overcrowding, Minister Masutha said a multi-pronged overcrowding management strategy was being implemented, which included reinforcement of diversion programmes, alternative sentencing, effective management of the parole system and the promotion of successful social re-integration.

"Different categories of offenders are being kept in separate centres, taking into account various factors including their sex, age, criminal record and legal reason for their detention," he said.

Minister Masutha said the department had ensured access to effective primary health care and that those who need secondary and tertiary health care services were taken to public healthcare facilities.

"The fight against the scourge of HIV and Aids, as well as Tuberculosis, is being intensified in order to enable every inmate to lead a healthy lifestyle," the Minister said.

According to the Minister, since 2005, various policies pertaining to health, mental illness, smoking and nutrition have been developed.

He said a wide range of health programmes were being implemented across all management areas which include basic health care, HIV and Aids management and voluntary counselling and testing, TB and other communicable diseases, oral health care, mental health services and acute and chronic disease.