Overcrowding in prisons remains a challenge for the department: Lamola

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Justice and Correctional Services Minister, Ronald Lamola says the inmate population has increased by 7, 67% between the 2020/2021 and 2022/2023 financial years. This constitutes an increase of just over 10 800 inmates.

Lamola revealed this in a written reply to an Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Parliamentary question in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

By October last year, the overall population stood at over 151 750 inmates in prison.

Strain on resources

Lamola says the impact of overcrowding remains a challenge which continues to put strain on available resources. He adds that the external factors that have a direct influence on the inmate population levels include crime tendencies in society, the unemployment rate, the economy, an increase in effective measures to combat and prosecute crime, as well as impeding legislation on mandatory minimum sentences.

Lamola also says the Correctional Services Department does not have control over the influx of inmates from courts.

He says by the end of September last year, there were close to 2 980 sentenced offenders still in custody who could not afford to pay their fines.

Meanwhile, the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) says overcrowding in prisons remains a serious challenge for correctional officials.

The Popcru Spokesperson, Richard Mamabolo, explains, “Our members are having challenges on a regular basis, because they have to look after a larger population of prison inmates and this result in most likely altercations where members are stabbed or even inmates themselves continue fighting among themselves. So these are the issues that the Department needs to look into. However, we do have confidence in the current National Commissioner in the Department of Correctional Services, who has agreed to be engaging with all stakeholders in looking into what solutions can be implemented.”

Overcrowding levels in SA prisons reaches nearly 40%: