Jails hotbeds of untreated boils

Dennis Bloem, the chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on correctional services, this week warned that South Africa's prisons are in a mess.

Dennis Bloem, the chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on correctional services, this week warned that South Africa's prisons are in a mess.

The truth is that few, if any, will be shocked by this revelation. In fact, his sentiments cannot remotely be termed a revelation, given that the Jali commission of inquiry into prisons made these observations weeks ago.

The country's prisons have been overcrowded, crime-infested havens for decades. The public got a glimpse of the serious problems affecting our prisons during the tenure of the previous commissioner of prisons, Khulekani Sitole.

To say we are perturbed that things had worsened under Sitole's successor, Linda Mti, would be an understatement. The extent of the rot that set in under Mti's soporific tenure is underscored in the Jali findings. It's akin to looking into the belly of the beast.

But Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour seems unfazed by it all, acting like a person smelling roses out of the Jali report. For his part, he has adopted an odd stance in expressing confidence in Mti while pretending all is well in our prisons.

The unpalatable truth is that our prisons are like latrines flushing out human effluent into a stream that provides drinking water to the public.

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