Sonke has submitted a report with Just Detention International to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services regarding the Department of Correctional Services 2011/2012 Annual Report. This is a precursor to an oral submission on 10 October. The summary is below and the report is available for download.
Sexual abuse of both awaiting trial and sentenced prisoners is a widespread and devastating feature of life in DCS facilitiesand dramatically increases the likelihood of HIV transmission within them (already a high risk environment).
Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) and Just Detention International (JDI) are concerned that DCS is not giving sufficient attention to the health and safety of inmates who live in its centres, which in turn, has grave consequences for society as a whole. While our full submission outlines a number of additional important concerns, our key points are summarised here.
- Sexual abuse receives no mention in the DCS Annual report (save for a mention of rape in the breakdown of claims against the Department). Statistics on reports received by DCS regarding rape and sexual assaults of inmates in DCS facilities continue to be absent from the Annual Report, and are rather merged into the general “assault” category. This is despite assurances over the last year that DCS recognises the need to disaggregate and track rape statistics, and that it now does so.
- We urge DCS to adopt the Framework to Address Sexual Abuse of Inmates in DCS Facilities. The Framework has been awaiting final DCS approval since December 2010 and its adoption and implementation is required in order for DCS to meaningfully address the abuse of inmates in its facilities.
- There is no information on the development of the screening tool required by the Correctional Matters Amendment Act of 2011, in order to assess vulnerability of newly sentenced inmates to sexual abuse. The development and implementation of this screening tool would address an important component of the Framework, but this is not mentioned in the discussion on the Act in the report.
- The number of HIV positive inmates on anti-retroviral treatment (ART) is critically low. While we applaud DCS for substantially increasing the number of inmates who are accessing HIV testing, the Annual Report is missing vital information on the number of inmates who are known to be HIV positive, the recorded cases of Tuberculosis (TB), and the number of inmates treated for TB, despite the critical link between HIV and TB. Only 43% of HIV positive inmates who are eligible for anti-retroviral treatment (ART) are accessing such life-saving services. Meanwhile, JICS reports that HIV and AIDS continue to be leading causes of inmate death and that TB is the leading cause of death.
- We urge the DCS to identify and address blockages to inmates’ access to health care and ART. This should include an assessment of whether the accreditation of more DCS centres as pharmacies would contribute to alleviating the situation.
- Lastly, we call on DCS to ensure that condoms are available to inmates in all centres together with lubricants. Lubricants are necessary to prevent condoms from tearing during anal intercourse and thus essential to their efficacy.