The DJF commented on the annual reports of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) and of the Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services (JICS) for the 2012-2013 financial year, ending on 31 March 2013.
This submission was presented to the Portfolio Committee for Correctional Services (Portfolio Committee) for its deliberation and information at its hearing on the two reports, held on 9 October 2013. Nomonde Nyembe of Sonke Gender Justice made the oral submission on behalf of the Forum. This submission was endorsed by Wits Justice Project, Just Detention International, Sonke Gender Justice, NICRO and Footballers for Life.
The DJF’s submission highlighted the following main concerns:
- Independence of JICS: The JICS is a vital watchdog body that oversees South Africa’s correctional system and is mandated to inspect and report on the treatment of inmates. To be an effective independent oversight mechanism for a correctional system that is mired with challenges, JICS needs strong institutional independence as well as support and cooperation from other departments such as the DCS, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), and the South African Police Service (SAPS).
- Ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT): There are continued calls from civil society that the authorities commit to ratifying OPCAT and to establish an adequate national preventive mechanism for effective prevention of torture and abuse.
- Reporting Systems in Correctional Services Must Reflect New Anti-Torture Legislation: The DJF calls on both the JICS and the DCS to revise reporting processes, systems and templates to reflect this important new legislation and onus on public authorities. New training and implementation targets must be set for officials of both bodies and reported on in subsequent years. Importantly, reports must include information on the number of complaints of torture received and the subsequent investigations and possible prosecutions which are mandated by the Act.
- Correctional Services Must Disaggregate Statistics by Gender: The DCS Annual Report contains no information about inmates disaggregated by gender. The JICS Annual Report does contain some gender-disaggregated information, although only on the ages and genders of sentenced offenders and remand detainees, and does not provide any further gender-specific information. By not disaggregating data according to gender and providing further information, it is impossible to discern whether the minimum standards and guidelines for the treatment of female inmates are being met and whether female inmates have equal access to programmes and an equivalent standard of care as compared to male inmates. In addition, the absence of any mention of the gender-specific needs of inmates, or any evaluation/measurement of whether and how these needs are being met, is of particular concern.
- JICS Must Report on the Outcomes of Its Investigations: Overall, the quality of analysis included in the 2013 JICS annual report is of a higher standard than that of previous reports, and outlines more clearly unsatisfactory issues and challenges. However, there is almost no information on outcomes of investigations, and no information given on why the NPA continues to decline to prosecute officials. Likewise there is inadequate analysis on the natural deaths in the past year.
- Correctional Services Provides Inadequate Information About Inmate Deaths: Similarly, the DCS report provides inadequate information on deaths (both natural and unnatural) of detainees. It is not sufficient to merely attribute an unclear proportion of unnatural deaths to suicide and provide no other breakdown of the other causes of unnatural deaths. Such lack of crucial detail is apparent throughout the report, with significant challenges either dealt with cursorily, or not at all, including issues of sexual violence as well as the management of tuberculosis.