Concourt prison TB ruling flouted: Prisoners should sue other prisoners, says Correctional Services

Dudley Lee, who successfully sued the Minister of Correctional Services because he became ill with tuberculosis (TB) while awaiting trial in Pollsmoor prison (GroundUp)

Dudley Lee successfully sued the Minister of Correctional Services because he became ill with tuberculosis (TB) while awaiting trial in Pollsmoor prison (Picture: Nathan Geffen)

“The Department of Justice and Correctional Services (DJCS) is flouting a landmark ruling on the government’s responsibility for curbing the spread of tuberculosis in prisons. The Constitutional Court ruled on December 6, 2012 that the state had failed to protect inmate Dudley Lee from contracting TB in Pollsmoor Prison. But now three inmates who contracted the potentially deadly disease under similar circumstances to Lee in prisons in the Western Cape are being told the department is not liable.”

Overcrowding in South African correctional institutions remains a major concern as it creates an optimum environment for communicable diseases to thrive. According to the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services Annual Report for 2011/2012, the average level of over-crowding in South Africa’s correctional centres was 133%. Furthermore, 110 of the 800 natural deaths in prison were caused by TB. Wits Justice Project senior journalist, Ruth Hopkins’, latest piece in Saturday Star documents lack of accountability from the DJCS for three former inmates who contracted TB under similar circumstances as Mr Lee.

Related readings:

Full prisons not just due to effective NPA

Thousands of prisoners may have undiagnosed TB

What should the state do now that it has lost the Dudley Lee case?


No escape for Abused Mangaung Prisoners

Leaked video footage shows Bheki Dlamini, allegedly being forcibly injected with drugs by the 'Ninjas'

Leaked video footage shows Bheki Dlamini, allegedly being forcibly injected with drugs by the ‘Ninjas’









“Sello Mbatyazwa has been kept in isolation for the past eight months at the Kokstad prison in KwaZulu-Natal. He is only allowed out of his cell for one weekly phone call. He used this call to tell me earlier this month about the dire state of affairs he is in…”

In her recent article in the Mail&Guardian, our senior journalist, Ruth Hopkins, writes about the living conditions of Sello Mbatyazwa at Kokstad prison in KwaZulu-Natal. Mbatyazwa and 21 inmates were transferred from Mangaung prison to a “super-maximum security” prison in Kokstad, just two weeks following an exposé in the Mail&Guardian about conditions at the G4S prison. To continue reading, click here. You can also read the PDF version of the article.

New York City’s Rikers: Where Mental Illness Meets Brutality in Jail

Rikers now has about as many people with mental illnesses — roughly 4,000 of the 11,000 inmates — as all 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined.

Rikers now has about as many people with mental illnesses — roughly 4,000 of the 11,000 inmates — as all 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined.


“At Rikers, inmates with mental health problems are especially vulnerable, often the weakest in a kind of war of all against all, preyed upon by correction officers and other inmates. The prolonged isolation, extremes of hot and cold temperatures, interminable stretches of monotony punctuated by flashes of explosive violence can throw even the most mentally sound off balance and quickly overcome those whose mental grip is already tenuous…”


The New York Times obtained documents that included a secret internal study (covering 1 Jan. 2013 – 30 Nov. 2013) that was completed by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. After obtaining specific information on 129 cases, The Times used the information to take an in-depth look at 24 of the most serious incidents. Among the findings was a critical portrait of guards on Rikers, who are poorly equipped to deal with mental illness. To read more about the horrific findings from the study, click here

Poor are entitled to a fair trial – Our latest Op-Ed in the Star

Clarence Gideon

Clarence Gideon

On a warm summer’s morning in June 1961, a penniless odd-jobber by the name of Gideon Clarence was discovered in a seedy bar in Panama City, a town in the state of Florida, the US.

When the police tracked him down, he was described as drinking on the morning shift, his trousers “hanging low, weighted by exactly $25.28 in coins”. Clarence, with a history of theft, drifting and destitution, was arrested under suspicion of breaking and entering a pool hall the evening before, supposedly walking off with a few bottles of liquor and the change from the juke-box machine. The evidence? A few convenient witnesses, his history of criminal activity – and, of course, the change sagging in his trouser pocket, which he claimed was the lucky outcome of a poker game.

For more on how Clarence changed US law and how that impacts South African’s today, read our latest op-ed in the Star – written by Robyn Leslie, senior researcher – here.

New podcast – we look at The Children’s Court and where it can help

For the podcast this week we go back to The Wits Justice Show on Thetha FM.

Presenter Sibusiso Sibisi looks at the Children’s Court and if it can help kids who have been abused and parents struggling for custody.

The Wits Justice Show is a weekly radio show on Alex FM (89.1) and Thetha FM (100.6) broadcast in English, Zulu and Sotho. It deals with miscarriages of justice and gives advice on how people can navigate through the justice system in general.

Torture: the shame of our nation








“We were forced to run naked down the corridor through a tunnel of warders who hit us while we were running and sprayed us with water. They were swearing and screaming: ‘Today you’re going to die!’ Then they forced us to lie on the wet floor in a long human chain – about 70 prisoners from my section. Each inmate had their nose in the arse of the person in front of them. If you turned to look up, they kicked you in the face with an army boot. There were also female warders who walked over us, kicked us in our genitals and mocked us about our private parts. And there were dogs.”

Raped inmate sues prison service,

The above excerpt is from a story our senior journalist, Carolyn Raphaely, wrote in March 2012. The horrifying account of the 2005 mass beatings at St Albans prison compelled us to continue to cover the story, and to work with Egon Oswald, the lawyer representing the tortured inmates, in bringing their case to court. The case is being heard in a Port Elizabeth high court, and Carolyn has continued to report on it, keeping the issue in the public eye. Links to her series of articles are included below (be warned of graphic content):
St Albans prison scandal: SA ignores UNHRC and risks international embarrassment by Carolyn Raphaely, Daily Maverick, 1 June 2014
St Albans: Tales of torture and intimidation continue, Carolyn Raphaely, Daily Maverick, 17 June 2014
The measure of a nation: St Albans, the shame of South Africa’s prisons by Carolyn Raphaely, Daily Maverick, 30 May 2014

It is very distressing that in March this year there was an almost identical incident of alleged mass beatings, in the very same prison. Carolyn wrote about it, the links (to the graphic stories) below:
Inmates ‘beaten, shocked, tortured’ by Carolyn Raphaely, The Star 13 March 2014
St Albans Prison: enter the era of SA’s torture prosecutions? by Carolyn Raphaely, Daily Maverick 2 April 2014









“Inmate Nceba Siko, still limping a week after being shocked twice on his testicles by a woman warder using a hand-held device, said that he and his cellmates were never told what EST members were searching for: “They were just shouting down, down, down. The whole cell was forced to lie naked on the floor with their face in the other inmate’s anus. While they were lying down, the members were standing on their backs and beating them with batons and shocking them with their shields….”

“I don’t know how long I lay there (on the cement outside the cell) with my face in that guy’s anus. They finished with us after 2am,” added a bruised and battered Jeandre Nel. “Some of those guys were under the influence of alcohol. They were shouting that we are dogs. One stamped on me and twisted his boot into my ribs. He said, ‘I’ll squash you like a bug, like a cockroach.’ In the end, they found nothing in our cell.”
St Albans Prison: enter the era of SA’s torture prosecutions?

The Wits Justice Project will continue to work to report on human rights violations and the abuse of force, and it will continue to work on torture prevention in the country. We will be hosting a symposium in August to look at how the new torture prevention bill should be implemented. To read more of our work, please go to
If you would like to make a donation please go to:

We would be unable to continue our work without the generous donations from our funders: the Raith Foundation, Open Society Foundation for South Africa, Canon Collins Educational and Legal Assistance Trust, the Joffe Charitable Trust and the Claude Leon Foundation

The Power of Knowledge

The Wits Justice Project (WJP) receives letters on a daily basis from inmates and with every reply the WJP team includes a copy of the ‘Know your rights booklet’. Recently an inmate wrote back to the WJP team, happy to have received the simple booklet. Below is a copy of the letter:

Letter from Inmate-page-001 (1)











This booklet deals with interaction with the criminal justice system from the point of arrest to appearing in court – and everything in between. The booklet is an easy-to-read tool that aims to increase levels of education and understanding, specifically so that citizens have a better understanding of their rights.













Know your rights: A simple guide to the South African criminal procedure/Azi Amalungelo Akho: Umhlahlandlela olula wenkambiso yokubhekana nobelelesi eningizimu Afrika is a  Zulu and English guide to navigating the criminal justice system.

Click here to read the booklet in English

and here to read the booklet in Zulu

The Wits Justice Project is not a legal firm, we are group of journalists and researchers. We are offering legal information, rather than legal advice. Please consult a qualified lawyer or paralegal if you need legal advice.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,311 other followers