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Prison plan makes sense

May 30 2013 12:55 James-Brent Styan

(Shutterstock) (Shutterstock)

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THE government pays R10 000 per month for every person locked up in jail.

There are currently 152 500 people in South African jails, roughly 1 out of every 340 people in South Africa, making the country one of the world’s top 20 with regards to numbers of people behind bars.

Where it gets nasty is that 30% of the total amount, about 45 000 people, are remand detainees, meaning they’re still awaiting trail.

In essence, many of these people may well be innocent.

The average period these people wait for a trial is three months, but more than 2 000 people have been waiting longer than two years to have their day in court.

One guy waited seven years.

Our prisons only have space for 119 000 people. That means it’s a fact that South African prisons are massively overcrowded by almost 30 000 people.

The department now wants to roll out electronic monitoring. This means some inmates will be allowed to go home wearing ankle bracelets. These bracelets allows the department to monitor the inmates within 3 metres, 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

Alerts are immediately generated and transmitted should the offender commit any violation. Interference with the equipment leads to an alarm.

Currently there are 132 offenders out of jail and using the system. The plan is to raise this to 500 in the next financial year. It could potentially be increased to 10 000 people very quickly.

Looking at the numbers alone, these electronic tags make sense.

It costs government only R3 400 per person using the ankle monitoring gadget per month. That’s close to R6 500 cheaper than the current system.

Many may say we can’t have inmates out of jail in this manner as it will not be safe, etc. We’ve heard the arguments before.

Well, there are many arguments to make against that point - including the fact that people are becoming worse criminals while languishing behind bars.

We may be doing society a favour by considering this initiative seriously - and save taxpayers a lot of money in the process.

 - Fin24

*Follow James-Brent Styan on Twitter at @jamesstyan. Opinions expressed are his own.

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james-brent styan  |  prisons


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