SAHRC finds against the Correctional Services Department in a probe following riots at Free State's Groenpunt Prison
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05 September 2013
The South African Human Rights Commission has completed its investigation into allegations made by the inmates incarcerated at Groenpunt Correctional Centre in the Free State Province, of violations of their rights.
The SAHRC launched an investigation into the living condition of inmates at this Correctional Centre situated in Deneysville, Free State Province, following the riots in January 2013 that left around fifty inmates and four warders injured.
The investigation by the Commission into this matter sought to determine whether any one or more of the human rights, listed in Chapter II of the Constitution, were violated during a mass riot at the Correctional Centre.
The inmates’ complaints were in relation to: the inadequate medical care, inadequate nutritional services; lack of rehabilitation programmes; the fact that the Case Management Committee sittings and their decisions are not communicated to the inmates; the fact that reclassification of inmates is not done regularly; the fact that there is no maintenance or repairs of the Centre; the conduct of the Emergency Support Team during searches; the fact that the administration of appeals is slow; and the establishment of a Prisoner’s Management Committees.
Based on the investigation conducted by the Commission, the Commission found against the Regional Commissioner of Correctional Services in the Free State & Northern Cape, and the Head of Groenpunt Correctional Centre in that they failed to adequately and timeously address inmates’ complaints and grievances and this ultimately led to the riots that took place early this year.
The Complaint of violations to the right to human dignity, and the rights of arrested and detained persons is also upheld.
The Commission also found that there was nothing gleaned during the course of investigations that suggested that the Regional Commissioner of Correctional Services in the Free State & Northern Cape, and the Head of Groenpunt Correctional Centre responded to the complaints of the inmates adequately and timeously.
The Regional Commissioner of Correctional Services in the Free State & Northern Cape, and the Head of Groenpunt Correctional Centre did not comply with the minimum standards of detention in light of domestic law and international instruments, and the inmates were not treated with the necessary respect towards their human dignity.
Nothing gleaned from the various reports obtained by the Commission shows that both the Regional Commissioner of Correctional Services in the Free State & Northern Cape, and the Head of Groenpunt Correctional Centre took reasonable measures to ensure that they provide the inmates with exercise, adequate accommodation, reading material, medical treatment and with generally accepted standards of accommodation in line with their obligations.
The Commission recommends accordingly that the Department of Correctional Services and Management of the Groenpunt Correctional Centre must ensure that inmates have access to rapid health treatment, and to social and psychological services, within twelve (12) months from date of this finding.
The Department of Correctional Services and Management of the Groenpunt Correctional Centre must, with immediate effect, keep an eye on how food and supplies are distributed. To this end, they must ensure that all inmates get basic necessities, rations and that these are not intercepted by other inmates and/or staff.
The Department and Management of the Centre must improve patrols by having systems where inmates can raise the alarm about corruption and irresponsible behaviour of officials, regular patrols to the cells and unannounced visits to cells, rapid access to the cells in the event of incidents and during lock-up, must be ensured within three (3) months from date of this finding.
Proper developmental and rehabilitative programmes must be developed and implemented in line with the Departmental policies and regulations within six (6) months from date of this finding;
Inmates complaints and grievances must be responded to timeously and handled appropriately with immediate effect.
The Commission shall regularly monitor the implementation of these recommendations, and to this end, the Head of the Prison must submit written progress report at least every six (6) months until all recommendations are implemented.
Issued by the SA Human Rights Commission
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