South Africa: setback for oversight role into prison deaths

The Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services (JICS) electronic system used to analyse unnatural deaths of inmates in custody has been deemed dysfunctional.

As a result, the inspectorate’s ability to perform its oversight role has been affected, according to the SA Human Rights Commission’s Civil and Political Rights report 2016/17.

The report examined key developments around civil and political rights (CPR) in South Africa.

The JICS and the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) had an agreement that an electronic reporting system be used to report deaths to enhance the speed of notification.

The commission says the JICS relied on the DCS to send it reports of unnatural deaths so that these can be analysed and feedback provided to stakeholders.

The JICS conducts investigations of deaths and allegations of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment in correctional centres, under the control of the inspecting judge.

The commission recommends that the JICS should have power to institute legal proceedings in its own name and a clear mandate to refer cases to SAPS or the National Prosecuting Authority in cases of criminal conduct by DCS officials.

Yesterday, the inspectorate’s spokesperson, Umesh Raga, said JICS advised the department to report by alternative means, which included facsimiles and e-mails, when the system failed in December last year.

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