JDI IN THE NEWS - 2011

Prisoner claims rape was left untreated

A 34-year-old awaiting-trial prisoner claims he was raped more than a month ago, and still has not received counselling, an HIV test or post-exposure prophylaxis.

The man, who is accused of bank fraud, has been detained at Goodwood Prison since October 13. He told Cape Argus that, on October 23, he was raped by another inmate in the hospital wing. He said he reported the incident to the nurses on duty.

But Correctional Services spokesman Simphiwe Xaka said that he had told the head of the centre only on November 24 that he was sexually harassed. He later claimed that he was raped.

Xaka said that if inmates reported rape, they would be sent to Karl Bremer Hospital where they would be examined immediately and given appropriate treatment. The police were contacted to investigate, and counselling was provided within the prison.

Prison authorities were adamant that the man initially said he had been “touched” by another inmate.

However, police spokesman Captain FC Van Wyk confirmed that the matter had been reported to them on October 24, and they were investigating a charge of rape.

The man said that he was “stressed out” and feared he could have contracted HIV as a result of being raped.

He said the alleged rapist had been moved to another section of the prison.

Clare Ballard, a researcher at the Community Law Centre at UWC, said by law the man was entitled to medical assistance, an HIV test and post-exposure prophylaxis. The Department of Correctional Services was also responsible for ensuring prisoners were detained in a safe environment.

“Failure to do so is an infringement of rights,” she said. Ballard said it was difficult to establish how widespread prison rape was because of the under-reporting and lack of extensive research.

James Selfe, DA spokesman on Correctional Services, believed thousands of prisoners were raped each month.

“This is a shocking indictment on the prison system’s lack of supervision,” said Selfe.

During a parliamentary portfolio committee for Correctional Services last week, the call for CCTV cameras inside prison cells had been reiterated. He explained that, once the cells were locked down, effective control passed from prison authorities to gang authorities.

“The use of CCTV cameras inside cells will make for better monitoring, and video footage can assist with apprehension of perpetrators and prosecution,” said Selfe.

Sasha Gear, programme director for Just Detention International, agreed that there was no way of quantifying the prevalence of prison rape, but said it was an “enormous problem”. This was one of the crimes least likely to be reported, said Gear, partly due to the profound stigma attached to male rape.

She said CCTV cameras could be useful in curbing sexual violence and other crimes among inmates, but they had to be part of a broader plan. “Staff need to be more aware of what is happening with inmates. It needs a whole range of other interventions,” said Gear.

Lukas Muntingh, project co-ordinator of the Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative, said prison rape was similar to domestic violence as it happened more than once. He said that once a prisoner had been raped, he was often labelled and other inmates would exploit him.

Some men are made into wyfies or prison “wives” and they have the protection of the “husband”. But they would often be loaned out to others.

Muntingh’s overall impression was that not enough was being done to deal with violence in prisons.