Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently raised concerns over the overcrowded maximum holding security prison.
Their concerns followed existing challenges that were raised by the Botswana Prison Service’s commissioner, Colonel Silas Setlalekgosi in terms of their holding capacities when appearing before PAC recently.
The commissioner revealed that the maximum prison in Gaborone has a holding capacity of 113 prisoners, but has over 200 inmates.
Setlalekgosi said countrywide there is a total of 3,729 inmates with two children against a holding capacity of 4,337, which gives an under crowding status of 14%.
“Our prisons are not overpopulated. Despite this, we have a challenge in terms of holding, especially at maximum holding security prison [facilities]. These are prisons holding persons who are considered to be very sensitive in terms of the offences they have committed. We are overcrowded at the maximum prison, it is an old prison that was built with a holding capacity of 113 and today it stands at over 200,” he told the PAC.
Setlalekgosi said in response to the crisis they have been looking to offload inmates to First Offenders prisons and others.
He stated that the human resource capacity and development remains a major challenge. He said their prisons are dilapidated with worn equipment.
He went on to raise concern over victimisation of inmates by the society after serving their sentences.
Setlalekgosi said acceptance into greater society is a major challenge that the prisons service wishes to be recognised.
PAC members feared the overcrowding could fuel negative behaviour amongst inmates. PAC chairperson, Dithapelo Keorapetse also disclosed to the committee to have recently read a report by NACA, which discussed homosexuality in prisons.
In response to Keorapetse, Setlalekgosi could not dismiss the possibility of homosexuality in prisons. Setlalekgosi stated if it happens in the society, there is nothing stopping it from happening in a confined space.
“Until I have cases that ‘this person did this to me’ that is when I can say indeed it is happening. There would be fights in prison and we would be suspicious it is happening. They call it maotwana in their lingo,” Setlalekgosi said.
“When we ask them what led to the fight they would claim others have ‘eaten their food’. We might not have evidence that homosexuality is happening, but since it happens in the society we know that it is bound to happen [here too].”
He added homosexuality like the issue of HIV/AIDS is not screened for, as they normally do not test people to check inmates’ HIV status or ask about sexual preferences when coming in. He said they test only when they see that an inmate’s health is deteriorating. On provision of condoms, Setlalekgosi said there are always issues of morality and legality.
“Usually when discussing this matter I look into it legally and morally. It may be legally correct, but morally wrong. For example in a male prison what kind of condoms do we provide, are we supposed to put both female and male condoms and what would be the interpretation,” Setlalekgosi said.