SGJ seeks to strengthen prison inspectorate's powers

The NGO is calling for a prison inspectorate with greater powers that will enable it to recommend criminal action against prison officials.

Picture: Supplied

CAPE TOWN - NGO Sonke Gender Justice (SGJ) is calling for a prison inspectorate with greater powers that will enable it to recommend criminal action against prison officials.

Lawyers for Human Rights, on behalf of Sonke, have filed papers in the Western Cape High Court challenging the constitutionality of the framework establishing the Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services.

It charges that the inspectorate lacks independence as required by the Constitution because its budget comes from Correctional Services, the same department it investigates.

Lawyer for Human Rights Clare Ballard says prevention of the ill-treatment of inmates is hampered by poor oversight mechanisms.

“When we have greater transparency we have few incidences of ill-treatment, torture and complaints.”

Ballard adds, in its current form, the Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services has no teeth.

“Currently the Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services has only powers of recommendations to the Department of Correctional Services. It doesn’t have powers to refer to the National Prosecuting Authority, it doesn’t have policing or powerful investigative powers like other oversight bodies do.”

Justice and Correctional Service Minister Michael Masutha and President Jacob Zuma have been cited as respondents.

They are expected to file answering papers before the month ends.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)