Remand detainees are people who have been arrested, have been refused or cannot afford bail, and are awaiting the start or completion of their trial. South Africa currently has 41,717 people in remand, making up nearly one third of the country’s total prison population
After spending nearly 11 long years behind bars for the gang-rape of 24-year-old Mpho Suping, Sabelo Ngani was released on parole from the Johannesburg Correctional Centre last month while still loudly protesting his innocence and claiming he had been wrongfully convicted.
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.
While parole is not a right, and can never be guaranteed, inmates do have a legal right to be considered by the parole board. Maladministration within the system has become so pervasive, however, that many lifers now feel approaching the court is the only way this will happen – an issue of which the department is well aware.
On the first anniversary of his release from Kgosi Mampuru (Pretoria Central prison), the wrongfully convicted former inmate says he’s still recovering from the 13 years he spent behind bars for a crime he did not commit: “It’s not easy to regain everything I lost. There’s a stigma attached to spending time in prison. People don’t trust you, they fear you. The hurt is still there. It’ll probably stay with me forever.”
Most of the female inmates interviewed in Hard Times, a 2012 research report on women prisoners in Pollsmoor produced by the University of Cape Town’s gender, health and justice unit, had experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse growing up.