Are you passionate about justice? Then check out the new WJP vacancy.

Team photo for job ad

Are you passionate about justice?

Do you want a job where you make a real and meaningful difference in people’s lives?

Then check out the new WJP vacancy, for a Programme Officer (and read the application instructions carefully):

The Journalism Department in the School of Literature, Language and Media invites applications for appointment to the full time position of Programme Officer for the Wits Justice Project (WJP).

The WJP combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.  It uses transparent activism to promote the foundational values enshrined in the South African Constitution and international and Human Rights law.

Position: Programme Officer 100% (AD10)

Grant funded, fixed term position.  Start date: 01 July  2015 (or as soon as possible) to 31 December 2016


  • At minimum a Bachelor’s degree in relevant fields such as journalism or law – this list is not exclusive and emphasis will be placed on sound work experience and proven abilities.
  • 3-plus years’ experience in NGO sector
  • Demonstrated excellence in organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills
  • Awareness of and commitment to human rights principles
  • Strong research and writing skills;
  • Well-developed analytical skills and the ability to absorb information quickly;
  • Highly organized, reliable attention to detail and ability to work independently when needed
  • Ability to work under-pressure, meet deadlines, prioritise workload and ‘multi-task’
  • Mature work practices, highly motivated, demonstrated sound judgment and the ability to respond positively to mentoring and directions.

This person is responsible for:

  • Research and contribute to publications, including the production of WJP publications and compilations
  • Assist in carrying out advocacy-related tasks, including attending and presenting at external conferences and workshops, drafting submissions to oversight bodies, and preparing ad hoc reports as needed.
  • Overseeing organization of WJP events – seminars, conferences etc.
  • Developing and tracking proposals and reports for all foundation and corporate fundraising and for existing donors
  • Help secure financial support from individuals, foundations and corporations
  • Help maintain ongoing relationships with existing donors
  • Other tasks as assigned by the Programme Coordinator

For further details of the project, see

Inquiries only: Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi

Closing date:   05 June 2015

To Apply Submit a letter of motivation, detailed CV with the names and contact numbers of three referees (including email addresses).

Internal employees are invited to apply directly on Oracle by following the path: iWits/self service application/”Apply for a job

 External applicants are invited to apply by:  registering your profile on the Wits i-recruitment platform located at and submitting your application.

The University reserves the right not to make an appointment and continue searching after the closing date.  Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.


10 things to know about South African Correctional Centres

1. There are 243 correctional centres in South Africa, according to Department of Correctional Services’ (DCS) 2013/14 annual report.

2. In the late 1990s the South African government ‘demilitarised’ the prison system. Prisons were now called correctional centres and rehabilitation services were introduced, to assist with the reintegration of offenders into communities as law-abiding citizens.

3. Speaking before his budget vote speech this week, Justice and Correctional Services Minister, Michael Masutha, said the total prison population is currently at 159,241. Of these, more than 40,000 are remand or awaiting trial detainees. This means that their trials have not concluded, and that they have yet to be found guilty of the crime with which they have been charged. In its annual report for 2013/2014, the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) gave the number of remand detainees as 44,236.


Source JCIS annual report 2013/14.

4. The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) is an independent body tasked with monitoring correctional centres. It investigates and scrutinises the conditions and treatment of inmates.

5. JICS is headed by the newly-appointed Inspecting Judge, Justice Lewis Skweyiya. According to its web site, the Inspecting Judge has appointed a number of full-time inspectors who conduct annual and monthly independent inspections at various prisons.

6. In their annual report 2013/2014 DCS stated that overcrowding levels were at 29.70%. According to EWN this week, Minister Masutha said that South African prisons have enough bed space for only about 120,000 out of 159,241 inmates.

7. Just Detention International – South Africa highlighted in its report ‘In Their Boots’ that the ratios of warders-to-inmates are worrying: “In the evenings at Johannesburg ‘Sun City’ Prison between four and 14 warders have to guard sections holding approximately 1 300 inmates”.

To learn more about conditions of overcrowding in South African prisons, please read an article – published in the Saturday Star on December 28, 2011 – written by Wits Justice Project (WJP) senior journalist, Carolyn Raphaely: How can we escape prison overcrowding?

8. According to a NICRO report entitled The State of South African Prisons report 2014, children under the age of 18 are not permitted to be held in prisons, and instead are held in secure care centres. There are 13 such centres in South Africa.

9. The JICS annual report for 2013/2014 states that there are 18 227 children (under the ages of 18) and juveniles (18 to 25 years old) in remand detention and together are about 41% of the remand population.  Because of their age, JICS categorises them as a vulnerable group.

10. South Africa has two privately run prisons, the British security company G4S runs Mangaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein and the American GEO Group, Inc. manages Kuthama Sinthumule Correctional Centre in Makhado.

WJP senior journalist Ruth Hopkins has written several articles about shocking allegations of human rights violations that took place at Mangaung Correctional Centre: Mangaung prison is a private hell on 25 October 2013.

And most recently:

G4S abuses in South African prison still ignored May 1, 2015.



JCIS annual report 2013/2014

Department of Correctional Services annual report 2013/2014

The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services

In their boots – Just Detention International – South Africa

‘Prison overcrowding due to remand detainees’ – EWN




10 Things to know about the Police Brutality Legal Clinic


  1. The Police Brutality Legal Clinic is run by ProBono.Org, an NGO which works with private legal practitioners to provide pro-bono legal services to those who can’t afford to pay for these resources themselves.
  2. Global law firm Hogan Lovells partnered with ProBono.Org to start the Police Brutality Legal Clinic in 2011.
  3. The clinic offers free consultation services with attorneys who evaluate the merits (evidence) of a case and provide preliminary advice on issues such as prescription, compliance and jurisdiction and then decide if a case is worth pursuing.
  4. The clinic operates on the first and third Tuesday of every month from the Probono.Org offices, by appointment only. Find address and contact details here.
  5. The clinic handles cases of police brutality, unlawful arrest and unlawful detention by the South Africa Police Services (SAPS) and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD).
  6. The clinic has seen more than 240 clients since 2011.
  7. In recent years, the clinic’s case load has increased significantly. According to Candice Pillay, head of Hogan Lovells pro bono department, this is because the public is becoming aware of their rights in relation to what police officers can and cannot do.
  8. The clinic also provides advocates to clients on a pro bono basis, once litigation commences.
  9. Civil cases against SAPS and JMPD are brought against the Minister of Police or the City of Johannesburg, not against individual officers.
  10. The clinic is currently litigating 20 cases – including pending High Court cases relating to unlawful detention.

For appointments please contact Pro-Bono.Org on 011 339-6080.

G4S abuses in South African prison still ignored


“On 17 December 2013, former inmate Tebogo Meje was called to the office of the unit manager in Mangaung prison, a South African jail run by British security behemoth G4S. There, members of the Emergency Security Team (EST)–a team of warders also known as the ‘ninjas’, armed with electrically charged shields and other non-lethal weapons–interrogated Meje. They asked him about the home-made weapons that were surfacing in the prison. Meje was not a member of the notorious prison gangs, who regularly stab each other and warders with weapons fabricated from shards of shattered toilet pots; on the contrary, he wasn’t even supposed to be in jail. One and a half years after the incident, the High Court acquitted him on appeal and he is now a free man again.

When Meje told the Ninjas he knew nothing of the knives, they didn’t let him go. “They made me lie on my stomach, stripped me of my shirt, poured water on me and then electroshocked me and kicked me,” Meje told the Wits Justice Project. “I had a swollen mouth, a swollen elbow and my skin was discoloured from the shocks,” he said.”

Senior Journalist at the Wits Justice Project, Ruth Hopkins, writes about the persistent level of impunity for gross human rights violation at the privately-run Mangaung prison in the Free State. In October 2013, G4S – the biggest security provider in the world – lost control of the prison, amid violent riots and stabbings, and strikes by prison officers. In August 2014, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) handed the prison back to G4S. Although then Minister of Correctional Services, Sbu Ndebele, promised to “leave no stone unturned” into the investigation of human rights violations at the prison, there is still no report made available – one and a half years later. The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS), the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), and the South African Police Services (SAPS) have also not addressed allegations of human rights abuses in the prison.

To read more and find out about an attempt taken to hold G4S accountable, click here. Also read the article as it appeared in the Daily Maverick, here

Listen to Hopkins and Meje shed light on the cruel practice of solitary confinement and human rights abuses at Mangaung prison.

Ten facts about SA’s watch-dog – Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).


  1. The IPID Act was signed into law on 12 May 2011. IPID is an independent organisation that reports to the Minister of Police and functions independently of the SA Police Service (SAPS)
  2. The Act empowers IPID to investigate serious criminal offences by SAPS and Municipal Police Service (MPS) members – including all deaths in police custody or as a result of police action, criminal offences and acts of serious misconduct allegedly committed by SAPS and MPS members.
  3. The Directorate is obliged to investigate matters such as complaints relating to the discharge of an official firearm by a police officer; rape by a police officer, whether the police officer is on or off duty; rape of any person in police custody and any complaint of torture or assault against a police officer in the execution of his, or her, duties. It is also mandated to investigate police–related corruption.
  4. IPID was established on 1 April 2012, in terms of Section 206(6) of the Constitution of the Republic of SA which provided for the establishment of an independent police complaints body. IPID replaced the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) and is empowered to focus on serious criminal investigations as opposed to mostly service –related matters investigated by its predecessor.
  5. IPID’s mission is to be “an effective independent and impartial investigating and over-sight body that is committed to justice and acting in the public interest while meeting the highest standards of integrity and excellence.”
  6. For the entire 2013/2014 reporting period, the IPID had no permanent head and nine provincial head posts were vacant. As a result, there were inconsistencies in performance, with some provinces meeting their performance target and others failing to do so.
  7. IPID received 5 745 complaints during the 2013/2014 reporting period. Of these, 3 916 were assault cases, 429 were complaints relating to the discharge of official firearms, 390 were incidents of deaths resulting from  police action, 374 related to other criminal matters and 234 were incidents of deaths in police custody.
  8. SAPS adopted an anti-torture policy in 2009 and in 2011 IPID was given an express mandate to investigate all allegations of torture by the police, according to the Association for the Prevention of Torture.

Most brutal police stations

9. The Prevention and Combating of Torture Bill was signed into law by President Jacob Zuma in July 2013.According to IPID 2013/2014 annual report, to date no police officer has been prosecuted for torture by the National Prosecuting Authority.

10. More than 17 000 cases of deaths, rapes, assaults and torture were reported to IPID between 2004 and 2014 countrywide – an average of 1 770 a year, or close to five incidents a day. According to City Press’ Athandiwe Saba (Brutality… just another day on the job) records dating back to 2004 were incomplete and case numbers, incident dates, names of police stations and complainants’ details often unrecorded.

Death in custody

Want to learn more about police brutality and misconduct?

The full IPID 2012/2013 report can be read here

The full IPID 2013/2014 report can be read here

An insightful piece on unlawful arrests and police misconduct, written by WJP senior journalist, Ruth Hopkins, can be read here

Also read South African police accused of routinely torturing crime suspects by WJP senior journalist, Carolyn Raphaely.

Listen to Wits Justice Show radio podcasts on Police Brutality and What can the police do to you during an arrest?



A roundup of criminal justice news in South Africa and the United States


Airmail via Drones Is Vexing for Prisons

A drone was used to smuggle contraband into Lee Correctional Institute, in Bishopville, South Carolina, the New York Times reported.

“Drones flying over prison walls may not be the chief concern of corrections officials. But they say that some would-be smugglers are experimenting with the technique as an alternative to established methods like paying off officers, hiding contraband in incoming laundry and throwing packages disguised as rocks over fences into recreational yards …

In January, guards found a drone with blue and red flashing lights on the ground inside a recreational yard at a prison in Bennettsville, S.C., according to investigative reports. On that drone were 55 grams of synthetic marijuana and a cellphone charger, the reports said.”

Brutality… just another day on the job

According to City Press, if you spend time in a police cell anywhere in the country – but especially in the Western Cape – you will probably be tortured, assaulted, raped, or even killed.

IPID records detailing deaths, rapes, assaults and tortures that took place in police custody between 2004 and 2014, obtained through a City Press PAIA request, indicated more than 17 000 cases reported nationwide.

“The records revealed that, of the 17 694 cases reported to Ipid, just more than one in five (3 644) were laid against police in the Western Cape. Gauteng police came in second, with 2 848 complaints against them, followed by officers in the Free State, with just more than 2 125 cases.”

Restraint of Pregnant Inmates Is Said to Persist in New York Despite Ban

Tina Tinen was doing a year for selling drugs, and had arrived in prison halfway through her pregnancy. On her due date in November 2011, she went into labor so rapidly that guards called for an ambulance to take her to the hospital from the women’s prison in Bedford Hills.

“Earth-stopping pain,” she said. “The ambulance arrived. I was handcuffed to the gurney.”

At the hospital, she said, she remained cuffed to the gurney as the contractions accelerated. “It was about one minute apart, just blinding pain,” she said. “I remember the clock on the wall of the room. I would see the minute hand, the second hand, and the hand would barely go around the clock and I would be screaming: ‘No! No! No!’ ”

Restraint of pregnant inmates is persistent although in 2009 the State Legislature passed a bill – signed into law by Gov. David A. Paterson – banning the shackling of pregnant women just before, during or after childbirth.

In a survey conducted by Correctional Association of New York (CA) since the ban became law, 23 of 27 pregnant women interviewed reported being restrained at least once in violation of the Anti-Shackling Law. The report was issued in February.

One of the women recounted her experience to CA:

“My ankles were shackled during the whole trip to the hospital when I was in labor. They pushed me in a wheelchair from the van to the hospital and at one point the wheelchair almost tipped over. I would not have been able to catch myself very well. . . . I was shackled until I got to the delivery room, but even then they kept one of my ankles shackled to the bed. [They] only took it off when it was time to start pushing. . . . I couldn’t rotate the way I needed to and I had to sit in one spot the whole time I was in labor. The baby was pushing and I was going through contractions and I wanted to lie on my side but I couldn’t because I couldn’t move my leg.” (p. 137)

Mental illness alarming in [South African] prisons

According to Police and Prison Civil Rights Union (Popcru), prison warders are unable to differentiate between a naturally violent inmate and a mentally ill inmate due to lack of training.

“In February, 3 755 inmates were recorded as being mentally ill out of a population of almost 150 000. Twenty one inmates committed suicide in 2013/14, according to the Correctional Service Department’s 2013/14 annual report, an increase from 13 in the previous financial year.” DCS acknowledged that the mental health needs of awaiting trial detainees – which constitute some 28% of the prison population – are unknown.

[In the United States] Most Prisoners Are Mentally Ill

More than half of inmates in jails and state prisons have a mental illness of some sort, according to an Urban Institute report, with depression the most common problem followed by bipolar disorder.

The numbers are even starker when analysed by gender: 55 percent of male inmates in state prisons are mentally ill, compared to 73 percent of female inmates.

“An increasingly popular program might help thin the ranks of these sick, untreated inmates. What are known as “mental-health courts” have sprung up in a number of states as an alternative to incarceration. A shoplifter who has, say, schizophrenia might be screened and found eligible for mental-health court, and then be sentenced to judicially supervised treatment. These types of courts have expanded rapidly since 2000, and there are now hundreds around the country.”

Prison hunger strike over uniforms, bedding, family visits

Sentenced inmates at Johannesburg Correctional Centre (Sun City) Medium B embarked on a hunger strike last Wednesday demanding that the head of the prison Samuel Mahlanga resign, the Wits Justice Project (WJP) reported in The Saturday Star. Inmates said they were protesting Mahlanga’s denial of their privileges, as well as their conditions of confinement. They said that the hunger strike ended late Thursday afternoon when some inmates were intimidated by the Emergency Security Team and transferred to other prisons.

Four inmates told WJP that a petition was handed to Sun City management listing the inmates grievances and demands a week prior to the hunger strike. When management failed to return with a satisfactory response to the petition, the inmates went on hunger strike.

The prisoners’ main grievances related to dangerous conditions at Sun City. For example, they claimed a lack of healthcare professionals in the unit where inmates with infectious diseases are housed. “Inmates are being cared for by fellow inmates because there are no nurses,” said Thabong, whose name was not provided to protect his identity.

The WJP was told by inmates that family visits were limited to only 10 minutes, no cleaning supplies were provided, and some sentenced inmates lacked suitable bedding and uniforms.

The inmates said that prison management has offered to meet with them on May 9th, but they remain sceptical that their demands will be met.

Read full article here

Petition handed to management by Sun City Medium B inmates.

                                        Petition handed to management by Sun City Medium B inmates.

Petition handed to management by Sun City Medium B inmates.

                                   Petition handed to management by Sun City Medium B inmates.



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