Brutal neglect of child prisoners is unconscionable
The Times Editorial: A shocking report on the inhumane conditions child prisoners are forced to endure should have every single parent - and politician - demanding immediate intervention.
The study, conducted at 41 prisons in South Africa between 2011 and last year by the Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative, provides compelling evidence that the Correctional Services Department is in violation of both the constitution and a host of UN conventions on children's rights.
It is completely unacceptable that child suspects are detained for up to 120 days awaiting trial, and that many juvenile prisoners are locked up for 23 hours a day and are denied education and access to social workers and psychologists.
It is unconscionable - especially in a country still held up as a leading light among developing democracies - that 85% of prison officials have not been trained to work with children, that 39% of child offenders receive no visits for three months and that precious little is done to ensure they stay in contact with their families.
According to one of the study's authors, professor Lukas Muntingh, children, particularly those serving shorter sentences, are falling through the ''rehabilitation gap'' and are being exposed to gangsters and brutal crimes.
"Instead of being rehabilitated, children are being broken," Muntingh notes.
Many children from poor backgrounds are already being short-changed by appalling school facilities and teaching standards.
It is clear from the report that many of those who are unfortunate enough to find themselves behind bars are, quite simply, being brutalised.
This has to change if children are to have any chance at all.
President Jacob Zuma must step in to ensure a comprehensive overhaul of the way Correctional Services treats child prisoners.