Each prisoner costs taxpayers R10,890 a month, but only R475 is spent on food

eBongweni maximum security prison in Kokstad, KwaZulu-Natal, houses SA's most dangerous convicted criminals.
eBongweni maximum security prison in Kokstad, KwaZulu-Natal, houses SA's most dangerous convicted criminals.
Image: Thuli Dlamini

Each prisoner costs taxpayers R10,890 a month, says correctional services minister Ronald Lamola.

Put another way, each of the 141,000 inmates behind bars in the last financial year required the taxes of someone earning about R47,000 a month to maintain them.

Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola.
Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola.
Image: GCIS

About three-quarters of the cost of keeping a prisoner funds the salaries of warders and other correctional services staff.

About R475 a month is spent on food for each prisoner, according to Lamola's written reply to a parliamentary question from IFP MP Christian Msimang.

Lamola says he expects the average number of prisoners to increase by 20% to 170,000 in the 2021/22 financial year.

The calculations in Lamola's answer exclude the costs of keeping the 5,952 inmates in SA's two private prisons, run by G4S in Mangaung, Free State; and by the GEOgroup in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo.

The monthly cost of keeping prisoners there was R14,654 in 2021/21, and is expected to be R16,082 in 2021/22.

Apart from the cost of staff, the biggest operational budgets at correctional services in 2020/21 were R1.46bn for property payments (including electricity, water and sanitation); R1.16bn for the two private prisons; R1.07bn for property leases; and R805m for food.

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