The way the state treats its prisoners is simply criminal - Times LIVE
   
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The way the state treats its prisoners is simply criminal

The Times Editorial | 2012-08-28 00:14:48.0

The Times Editorial: The Constitutional Court will today hear the case of Dudley Lee, who contracted TB while serving time at Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town from 1999. His application for compensation from the state for failing in its constitutional obligation to safeguard his health while he was in prison will be heard by the highest court in the land.

The hearing will put the spotlight on the conditions that prisoners are forced to endure while in the custody of the state.

When Lee entered prison that November, after being charged with fraud, counterfeiting and money laundering, he spent his first night in a crammed cell.

The cell, which under normal circumstances accommodates only 23 prisoners, was overflowing with between 40 and 60 men. Lee says his nightmare had started in earnest, and by 2003 he had contracted TB.

In his determination to prove that the conditions at Pollsmoor led to him contracting TB, Lee approached the courts.

Though the high court ruled in his favour, the Appeals Court said he could not prove that the prison was the source of his TB.

The conditions in our prisons are indisputably shocking. Those who have had the displeasure of spending time in them tell horrific stories.

They say overcrowding, drugs , sexual abuse and systematic violation of human rights by prison gangs - in cahoots with warders - is the order of the day.

They say that those who walk out of prison healthy are the lucky ones - thousands just suffer in silence.

The treatment we mete out to our prisoners overshadows our human rights record.

Countless reports on prison conditions have been submitted to the government but it seems nothing of substance has been done.

Our prisons should not be places where people go to die.

Our constitution protects all, including those who have been on the wrong side of the law.

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