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Conditions in prison for the majority of inmates are at best stark, and miserable

Categories: HEADLINES, Offenders and Ex-offenders rehabilitation
The recent return of two of the Waterkloof 4 has not only led to criticism regarding the behaviour of the individuals concerned, but also to concern amongst members of the public regarding the so called 'good' and 'comfortable' conditions in our prisons. This is a misreading of the current situation.

 Conditions in prison for the majority of inmates are at best stark, and miserable, with nothing akin to comfort or good with overcrowding and poor sanitation being rife.

The comfortable and well resourced conditions evident in the video are certainly not the norm for the vast majority of prisoners. But, and here is the matter which should be of grave concern, such conditions are available for certain classes of inmates - viz those that have access to money, and to corruptible and bribable prison staff. This means that the tenet on which our law is based - that all are equal before the law - is not a fundamental principle within our correctional system - there is indeed an economic apartheid - the monied classes can expect differentiated treatment, they can expect the hardships of imprisonment to be cushioned by greedy jailers bringing in enough of the good things of life to ameliorate the harshness of incarceration. The fact that the jailers might be lowly paid and subject to poor working conditions is not an excuse for their corrupt activities.

Not only must the Waterkloof 2 be sanctioned, if indeed an investigation finds them guilty of contravening prison regulations, but even more so must the Correctional Services staff who made this all possible, face the stiffest of penalties for undermining justice and bringing our Corrections system into disrepute. This case sets back the cause of public support for rehabilitation by decades, as it reinforces a myth amongst the South African public that prison conditions are soft and cushy and should be replaced by 'hard labour' and slave conditions.

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