Oscar: Disability would be catered for in prison, court hears

On September 12, Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide for the shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his Pretoria townhouse.

The court found him not guilty of murdering Steenkamp.

In sentencing proceedings, Prosecutor Gerrie Nel was dealing with concerns raised by testimony for the defence that there were not adequate facilities in prison for disabled persons, and that Pistorius would not be safe. Acting national commissioner for correctional services, Zach Modise told the court: “I said in Parliament [on Wednesday] that the department is ready to take in people with disabilities in prison.”

Pistorius would not have his prostheses taken away in jail and could use his own doctor, the court heard.

“The registered nurse will report any medical assistance device in possession of the offender,” Nel read from documentation. “Such devices may not be removed without the instruction of the medical attending,” he continued. “That is correct My Lady,” Modise replied.

Modise said within six hours of admission to a prison, a health assessment would be carried out on an offender. Within 21 days, there would be a “complete assessment” of a prisoner’s needs. This would be used to compile a “sentence plan”. Modise said a prisoner could use his own doctor but would have to pay out of his own pocket.

Judges visit prisons
Modise told the court that magistrates and judges go to prisons around the country and have access to inmates. 

“My Lady, judges and magistrates have access to any correctional service facility. They can interview any inmate,” Modise said. “Even the judges in the Constitutional Court visit our facilities.”

Modise said judges and magistrates talk to inmates, take complaints from them and deal with the complaints. When a new prisoner goes to jail, the person gets assessed in a period of 21 days to determine how and where to accommodate them, he said. They took social, psychological and health needs into account. He said there are people who had different “vulnerabilities” and they had to ensure these vulnerabilities are not exploited. “There should be no doubt that Mr Pistorius, or any other accused with a disability, shall be accommodated properly,” Modise told Nel. 

He referred to South Africa successfully deporting honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani from the UK to stand trial in Cape Town. “There are places where we can accommodate people like Mr Shrien Dewani, who feel very vulnerable.”

Torture in prison mere ‘allegation’
Modise told the court that an increase in torture in prisons was merely an allegation.

“The department of correctional services has come under fire in Parliament for the increase in torture cases,” Barry Roux, for paralympian Oscar Pistorius, told Modise. He was reading from a report in The Star from Wednesday, on Modise’s presentation to Parliament this week. “My Lady, there is this allegation,” Modise replied.

Since the start of Oscar Pistorius’s trial, there have been threats against his life, the High Court in Pretoria heard on Thursday.

“There were threats against Mr Pistorius. Don’t they bring this to your attention?” Roux asked. Modise said he was not aware of threats and none of them had been brought to his attention. Roux said there were various media reports where an inmate threatened Pistorius after he shot Steenkamp dead. 

On March 5, Pretoria News reported that leader of the 26s prison gang Khalil Subjee, said that should Pistorius be convicted and jailed for Steenkamp’s death, his wealth would not buy him a lavish prison lifestyle – instead he would “be taken out”.

Speaking from a prison call box Subjee, 47, said: “If he thinks he is going to come here and buy his way to get computers and cellphones and a lavish lifestyle, he must know that will never happen for as long as I am around,” said the man who claims to control all the inland prisons. 

Subjee stabbed Chris Hani’s killer Clive Derby-Lewis at the Kgosi Mampuru Prison. Modise said that he was not aware of the threat against Pistorius. He said prison officials were investigating the stabbing of Derby-Lewis. “What happened is strange, we are investigating. He was their cleaner, something must have gone wrong,” he said. Roux said he was pointing it out because Subjee would do something.

Facilities will cater for Pistorius’s disability
Should Oscar Pistorius go to prison, he would go to a facility that caters for his disability, Modise said.

“He should go to a unit in the correctional facility that is earmarked to deal with a person with his disability,” Modise said. Barry Roux, for Pistorius, was cross-examining Modise in the athlete’s sentencing procedures. Roux said since the conditions in prisons were highlighted as not being equipped for people with disabilities, he had received many calls from department officials. “Let me disclose to you … I received many calls from wardens telling me that there are no baths [and] shower doors [are] broken … in prisons,” Roux said. 

Modise responded: “What you put to me is not true. It is interesting that correctional services officials are calling Mr Roux.” He said there were no baths in the normal section of prisons but there were baths in the health facilities. He denied that shower doors were broken.

Modise further commented that prisons are now able to detect whether certain inmates have ailments that are health concerns. “My Lady, the department of correctional services has moved on … we have a gene expert machine that indicates what ailments you have,” Modise said. 

He said there were a number of people in prison who suffered from various ailments, but that there were measures in place to protect other prisoners. “It is not that anybody will be exposed to someone with tuberculosis [TB],” he said. “We have a regime to treat TB cases.” When asked what protection was available, he said he was not aware of all the ailments but there were strict regimes in place including isolation. 

He said they could not “mix people” who were sick. Prisons had doctors, nurses, psychologists and security officials on duty day and night, he said. 

The state closed its case in the sentencing procedures.

“The case for the state in terms of sentencing is closed,”  Nel said. “I suggest that we adjourn until tomorrow morning and then we argue.”

Arguments are expected to be heard on October 17 at 9.30am. – Sapa

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