Overcrowding in prisons symptom of much bigger problem: Prisons commissioner

Overcrowding in prisons was not a Department of Correctional Services predicament alone but a crisis that the South African society has to address as it is a symptom of a much bigger‚ and more complex‚ problem.

This is the view of correctional services commissioner Zach Modise as his department is racing against the clock to comply with a recent court judgment which ordered the department to reduce overcrowding at the Pollsmoor remand detention facility.

The remand facility‚ which is meant to house 1619 detainees‚ accommodated just over 4000 detainees.

The High Court in Cape Town last month ordered that the number of people detained at the facility be reduced to 150% of the current approved accommodation within six months.

Addressing a meeting of the Western Cape provincial Justice Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster in Cape Town on Wednesday‚ Modise said there was a need at national‚ provincial and local level to find lasting solutions to the challenges of overcrowding in the country’s prisons.

“It is a well-known fact that overcrowding of correctional centres indicates a larger systemic ill in society‚ which is that of crime itself. Therefore‚ crime prevention‚ in cooperation with communities‚ remains a priority.”

Modise said‚ following a meeting of the national cluster director-generals last Friday‚ it was decided that the matter of overcrowding should be dealt with by provincial JCPS clusters.

He said the Western Cape JCPS Cluster had been requested to finalise its plan‚ which must include short and long-term sustainable solutions‚ to address overcrowding‚ as monthly progress reports must be submitted to court. — Tiso Black Star Group Digital