SA becoming increasingly violent‚ says prisons minister

Justice and correctional services minister Michael Masutha says prison population figures suggests that South Africa is increasingly becoming a violent society.

Masutha told MPs on Wednesday that long prison sentences of between 10 and 15 years increased by 77 percent‚ while the number of short sentences of between six and 12 months dropped by 51% in the years between 2003 and 2016.

Masutha said in the same period the number of offenders sentenced to 20 years and more had risen by a “staggering 439%” while those sentenced to life imprisonment had skyrocketed by a whopping 413%.

He said these figures were the main reason behind rising overcrowding in prisons and they also showed that the country was increasingly becoming more violent.

Long term prison sentences were generally meted out against people committing serious crimes such as murder‚ assault‚ rape and other forms of sexual violence and robberies with aggravating circumstances among others.

Masutha revealed the figures as violent crime has come under sharp focus in the national discourse‚ following the gruesome killing of Johannesburg resident Karabo Mokoena‚ apparently by her boyfriend.

Four more bodies of women were found dumped in Soweto on Tuesday while 11 men had been arrested on Monday for allegedly gang raping a pregnant woman in downtown Johannesburg.

The justice minister did not specifically mention these cases‚ but said he was worried about the increase in the number of offenders committing violent crimes.

“This says that we are increasingly becoming a violent society‚” he said.

“Looking at these figures‚ there is an urgent need to create additional bed space (in prisons) and take extra levels of care over existing infrastructure which is dilapidating due to limited maintenance.

“Utilisation of offender labour will go a long way in reducing the level of dilapidation in our facilities. I have seen many of our regions taking advantage of offender labour to do some of the critical maintenance work‚ and this must be applauded.”

Masutha was presenting the department of correctional services’ R22.8 billion budget for the 2017/18 financial year in Parliament