People who say SA prisons are hotels have never been to prison or hotel, says activist Golden Miles Bhudu

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Golden Miles Bhudu of the SA Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (SAPOHR). File Picture

Published Feb 28, 2024


Arresting and detaining people convicted of violent criminals in South Africa has not served its intended purpose of rehabilitation.

That’s the view of president of the South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (SAPOHR), Golden Miles Bhudu, who said the perception that correctional facilities are enjoyable places where prisoners relish a break at the taxpayers’ expense is untrue and misleading.

“I thought we were long past that boring statement, mentality, and ideology. It is almost 30 years in democracy and we have heard this 30 years ago.

“What must be done to take away that perception that our prisons are either holiday inns or hotels? It is not true,” Bhudu spoke to broadcaster eNCA in Boksburg, at the ongoing national conference on the integrated criminal justice system, and review of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977.

“Those who keep on saying that, it is one of two things - either they have never been to a prison in South Africa or they have never been to a five-star hotel.”

Prisoners' rights activist Golden Miles Bhudu. File Picture: Werner Beukes / SAPA

Bhudu argued that the salient issue of repeat offenders happens because the Department of Correctional Services is not fulfilling its mandate, to ensure effective rehabilitation and empowerment of offenders.

“It is because the Department of Correctional Services has not fulfilled its mandate to the fullest. If you had a Department of Correctional Services that was working with non-profit organisations who are not aligned to them, we were going to be the difference,” said Bhudu.

He said South African taxpayers need to understand that under the current set-up, rehabilitation is not working “because no one is prepared to invest in education, training and skills development”.

Bhudu highlighted that while the focus is on violent crime across South Africa, white collar crime is equally detrimental in the country – despite the latter not leaving a trail of blood.

He added that currently, “nobody wants to have anything (to do) with those behind bars, and that hardens attitudes.”

He said many people who are released from prisons after serving their terms, leave the correctional facilities as hardened criminals.

“The system doesn’t help these people to become law-abiding, productive and useful citizens. They come out being hardened there, and they are hardened by taxpayers’ monies. What is wrong with those who are running these institutions?” Bhudu asked.

On Tuesday, IOL reported that Police Minister Bheki Cele, addressing the three-day conference, appealed to the judiciary to keep suspected criminals behind bars and not to “dish out bail like it’s hot scones”.

Deputy President Paul Mashatile interacting with Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, and Minister of Police, Bheki Cele. Picture: Supplied

He wants members of the judiciary, which includes magistrates and judges, to help the police’s crime-fighting efforts by removing accused people or suspected dangerous criminals from society.

“Bail should not just be dished like hot scones. Really, we must find some way of dealing with the bail situation. I know we are putting a lot of pressure on the other system (correctional services) as the police. In the ongoing Operation Shanela, we have arrested 442,000 people in 12 months,” said Cele.

He said in some instances, lawyers were working with rogue prosecutors to ensure that accused people were released on bail.

The conference,which was also addressed by Deputy President Paul Mashatile on Tuesday, was attended by Cabinet ministers, retired and serving judges, legal experts, and members of government’s justice and crime prevention cluster.

Deputy President Paul Mashatile addressing the three-day national conference on the integrated criminal justice system, and review of the Criminal Procedures Act, 1977, in Boksburg, Gauteng. Picture: Supplied

Cele said the people released by courts on bail often revert to their criminal ways.