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Prisoners face new 'death sentence' - By Fana Peete
While the death penalty has been abolished in South Africa, many people who have been jailed feel they are, in effect, still being sentenced to death because of the number of cases in which prisoners are raped by HIV-positive inmates.

This emerged at the Jali Commission investigating corruption in prisons when evidence leader Graham Barlow asked Pretoria local prison social worker Helena du Toit whether there was any policy regarding sexual assaults in prison.

Du Toit said "rape" was most prevalent among awaiting-trial prisoners because of overcrowding which made it impossible for prison authorities to have control over them.

She said there was no classification of awaiting-trial prisoners - as a result a man who stole a piece of bread because he was hungry could be held in the same cell as a serial rapist. She said such victims also received no counselling, because awaiting-trial prisoners had no access to social workers or any professionals.

'Rape was most prevalent among awaiting-trial prisoners'
"The other problem is that men usually do not report that they had been raped. In addition, gays and lesbians do not normally tell prison authorities about their sexuality. One has to make an observation and draw a conclusion."

Du Toit said at the prison, three social workers were allocated for more than 400 sentenced prisoners.

There was also no policy regarding identifying gay and lesbian inmates. Warders also received no training in relation to the treatment of transsexuals. "I believe that policy should change to accommodate awaiting-trial prisoners in different categories to reduce the number of rape victims and avoid death sentences which are, in effect, still happening in prison."

Earlier, a member of the police unit stationed at the prison, Inspector Hermanus Steyn, said he could not remember any prosecutions involving cases of sodomy in prison.

Steyn admitted that if Louis Karp - a former inmate who was allegedly raped in prison - had not been in prison, he could have received treatment and counselling. He said it was unacceptable for a prisoner to see a doctor 24 hours after allegedly being raped.

'Men usually do not report that they had been raped'
Steyn said after the alleged rape, Karp's underwear was never scientifically examined, because there were no instructions to do so.

He said that during his stay at the prison as a police officer, he could not remember a prison warder being taken to court to answer to charges laid against him by a prisoner.

Another police officer, Inspector Eben Gerber, said a case of crimen injuria laid by Karp against a warder called Jaco Gerber could not go to court because the senior public prosecutor declined to prosecute - apparently there were no witnesses.

  • This article was originally published on page 3 of The Pretoria News on February 17, 2004

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All information is Copyright 1997 - 2006 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff