Ruth Hopkins reflects on her recent visit to the United States of America, where processes of truth telling reminded her of its history of slavery and lynching. She learned that it can actually be destructive not to acknowledge the pains, horrors and atrocities of the past.
Authors - Ruth Hopkins
The Western Cape High Court decided on Monday that the conditions in Pollsmoor Remand (awaiting trial) detention facility are unconstitutional. Lawyers for Human Rights and Sonke Gender Justice filed the complaint with the court, claiming that the severe overcrowding – the facility is approximately 300 % over its capacity – and inhumane conditions should be condemned by the court and addressed by government.
The deadly margin of error in death penalty cases should come as a salutary warning to those wanting to reinstate capital punishment in South Africa.
Consider the case of Anthony Ray Hinton from Alabama, US.
Gregory Bright, who spent 27 years in Angola for a crime he did not commit, agrees. “There were always guys who came back injured from the rodeo,” he says. “One guy had severe kidney problems after he was attacked by one of the bulls. He later died from complications. No one talks about that.”
My friend and New York attorney Beena Ahmad– who worked for nearly a year with the Wits Justice Project – had a quirky habit. In her neighbourhood in Brooklyn, with great enthusiasm, she picked up books that people left out on the street. Sometimes I would share her joy, like when she picked up a battered copy of Long Walk to Freedom, placed on a garden wall. Other finds, like Form Your Own Limited Liability Company, for example, didn’t seem quite as riveting.
RUTH HOPKINS reflects on how language can impinge on a person’s dignity and why it’s important to consider the meaning and impact of the words
we use in the service of justice.
When American police officers shot dead two black men – Anton Sterling (Batton Rouge, Louisiana) and Philando Castile (Falcon Heights, Minnesota) – within 24 hours in the sweltering heat of July, thousands took to the streets to protest against the violence that they say is predominantly aimed at African-Americans. Two days later, a sniper killed five police officers, who were guarding a demonstration in Dallas, Texas. His aim? To kills as many white cops as possible.
Every day, South African police officers and prison wardens go to work, armed with legal tools that can be used to torture. Electric shock devices, tonfas, pepper spray and rubber bullets are classified as non-lethal weapons and therefore are assumed to be a safer alternative to guns. But the Omega Research Foundation (Omega) and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) warned during a conference last week that they can be potentially lethal tools of torture.
Roughly 95% of the current 7 800 inmates at Rikers are people of colour. This reflects a national trend: in the United States, one out of three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime and African-American women are three times more likely to be jailed than white women.
ON MONDAY 25 April, Montgomery was a ghost town. The streets were deserted and the banks and shops closed. Alabama celebrates Confederate Memorial Day every third Monday of April, a day when the soldiers who died fighting for the confederate states in the civil war are honoured.