Investigative Journalism - Justice / Law

The power of words for incarcerated people

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.

For Thembekile Molaudzi, justice delayed was justice denied

“I’m innocent” is a refrain prison warders hear with such monotonous regularity, they mostly don’t listen. Zonderwater warder Levi Maphakane proved the exception to the rule. He not only listened to repeated protestations of innocence by inmate Thembekile Molaudzi – sentenced to life imprisonment on four counts including murder and robbery more than a decade ago – he contacted the Wits Justice Project (WJP) for help. Last week, the Constitutional Court reversed its own ruling regarding Molaudzi and ordered his immediate release. CAROLYN RAPHAELY reports.

Inequality before the law – Is South Africa’s criminal justice system punitive to the poor?

“It would be a sad day … if the impression is created that one law counts for the poor and another for the rich and famous,” Judge Thokozile Masipa told the world last Tuesday when she sentenced Paralympian Oscar Pistorius to five years behind bars. She listened carefully to the testimony of acting National Commissioner of Correctional Services Zach Modise and said she “had no reason to believe SA prisons would not be able to cater to the needs of a disabled person.”

The parallel universe in Kgosi Mampuru: Inmates with disabilities speak

The day before double amputee Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to five years in prison for culpable homicide, Eric Viljoen, a one-legged prosthesis-wearing convicted rapist was preparing to leave Pretoria’s Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Centre, where he has been incarcerated since January this year. According to Viljoen, he has spent the past year fighting prison authorities and begging for a transfer from what he describes as the “worst of the… prisons in which he has done time”