Thursday, May 17, 2007

Overcrowding in a Durban prison

In the chapter, Overcrowding in a Durban prison, Shanta Singh investigates the impact of severe overcrowding on prisoners in the city's largest maximum security facility. As she points out, prison overcrowding reflects the high rates of crime in a society where so many people experience poverty and where inequalities are so vast. The majority of prisoners hail from poor backgrounds and are particularly susceptible to spreading infectious diseases in such conditions. Her paper draws on deeply unsettling interviews with inmates: she argues that prisoners’ Constitutional rights are regularly violated. Perhaps because prisons are ‘behind closed doors’—and because many view prisons as institutions for retribution in which prisoners should have no rights—the issue of overcrowding has not been taken seriously. But Shanta says that such overcrowding can be a ‘death sentence’.

Singh, Shanta. 'Overcrowding in a Durban prison', in Rob Pattman and Sultan Khan (Eds.), Undressing Durban (Durban: Madiba Press, 2007), pp. 292-296.