Gruesome prison brawl under investigation

14 March 2018 - 16:57 By Petru Saal
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) is investigating the gruesome attack at a Johannesburg prison that left one inmate dead and another seriously injured.

The inspectorate‚ which acts as a watchdog to uphold the human dignity of inmates‚ said it had received a preliminary report about the attack just before midnight on Tuesday.

A fight broke out inside the Leeuwkop Medium B Correctional Centre in Gauteng on Tuesday evening which a prisoner described as a battle between rival gangs vying for control of the facility’s lucrative drug trade. When wardens arrived to break up the fight‚ one prisoner’s throat had been slit and a second was seriously injured.

“JICS received a preliminary report … of an incident between two inmates‚ where a sentenced inmate died at the Leeuwkop Medium B Correctional Centre in Gauteng. JICS has commenced with an independent investigation into the matter‚” said spokesperson Emerantia Cupido.

The oversight body has asked for a report on the circumstances surrounding the death as a matter of urgency. “The inspectorate will report to the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and parliament and make the report available to the department of correctional services and the public‚” she said. The South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (SAPOHR) said on Wednesday that the death of prisoners had become the norm.

“The death of prisoners at the hands of fellow prisoners and correctional officers is all too familiar to SAPOHR‚ and in fact has become a norm in the modern department of correctional services since the dawn of our democracy‚” said spokesperson Golden Miles Bhudu.

“These kind of deaths‚ assaults and injuries of prisoners we have drawn a conclusion … is a result of negligence‚ ignorance and the lucky-go attitude from the side of the system that was supposed to protect and care for both prisoners and correctional officials alike‚” said Bhudu.

“One death of an inmate or a correctional officer is one too much.”

JICS recorded 52 “unnatural deaths” - with suicides representing 27 of those – in its 2016/2017 annual report.

“All inmate-on-inmate deaths are related to inter-gang rivalry. Inmates were killed as a result of stabbing with self-made knives‚ assault with fists‚ and/or kicked to death. The extreme violence and brutality that took place was caused by both remand detainees and sentenced offenders‚” said the report.

For the 2015/2016 financial year‚ the department of correctional services reported 62 deaths from prima facie unnatural causes to the inspectorate.