It is scandalous that the Department of Correctional Services has closed its eyes to the grossly overcrowded Mthatha Prison in Eastern Cape.
The prison is allegedly more than 400 percent overcrowded with remand prisoners.
There is one warder for every 200 prisoners, which could lead to abuse of power by harried officials.
This state of affairs is inhumane and against all the tenets of the Constitution. The prisoners awaiting trial are kept in horrendous conditions as if they are already being punished for their alleged transgressions.
This is in contravention of South Africa's justice system, which presumes innocence until proven otherwise.
The conditions in the cells are a breeding ground for disease. It is unhealthy for 300 inmates to be crammed into a cell with only two toilets.
Epidemics could break out, leading to medical expenses that will be footed by the taxpayer.
A warder has warned that overcrowding might lead to HIV-Aids since the opportunity for rape is high. Surely people cannot be given an HIV-Aids death sentence for petty offences?
Many of the remanded prisoners cannot pay bail.
We urge the courts to swiftly process these prisoners and give them free bail for petty offences.