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Allow prisoners conjugal visits

There is a video circulating in WhatsApp groups, in which a prison inmate was recorded having a passionate moment with his female jailer. 

It depicts a full episode of passionate coitus. My research suggests that it is authentic. In fact, the South African department in charge of correctional services has confirmed same and is dealing with the matter. Regrettably, I learn, that, the poor woman, couldn’t Iive with the resultant public humiliation that came with the exposure. She committed suicide. May her soul, rest in peace.

The fervour with which it circulated in WhatsApp groups confirms precisely what the Shakawe video prank, confirmed. We are a nation that is obsessed with two main types of news; sex scandals, and witchcraft. Untidy, as it were, I cannot fathom why any person would put such a scandalous video, regarding a fellow human being into public circulation, especially in unedited form. To me, that’s witchcraft, regardless of the morality of the video. The age of social media had  dawned upon  a society still struggling with anacronices vices of malice, witchcraft, and pettiness. The damage, including the suicide that resulted, was perfectly foreseeable. True, it is a South Adrican video. But we have seen Botswana videos circulating before. Only recently was another video circulated, purportedly recorded at Peolwane, in Gaborone. Behind all the actors in these videos, there are children, and families who are punished no less. And they are all innocent. We have a long way to go before we can talk of a compassionate society.

In truth, the retention and circulation of such material is unlawful. But the provisions of the the Cybercrime and Computer Related Crimes Act, are stale, regard being had to the burdens intrinsic to investigating and successfully prosecuting cybercrime offences. There’s hardly much the police can do beyond making public statements. I have attended several cybercrime trainings and international conferences overtime. The burdens still confound even the most well trained and best equipped law enforcement countries, in the world. Except for child pornography offences, and financial offences, law enforcement agencies generally look away.

Back to the video. I am reminded of a time, a few years back, when I was interviewed by a government reporter on penal reform. The interview was supposed to air in a government radio station. One of the reforms that I suggested, was that prisoners, especially long-term prisoners, be allowed conjugal visits. It’s not a new concept. The unprotected anal sex that happens between inmates in our prisons is partly on account of long term sexual deprivation meted upon prisoners. A basic physiological human need is suppressed by the penal system. Since forces generally go the path of least resistance, the energy is expended in other forms of sexual activity that may, in the circumstances, be either

illegal, or unethical.

Someone says; “yeah, there he goes again. Why should these people who hurt us even be afforded the right to have sex?” The answer is simple; for the same reason you are having sex.

We are yet to appreciate the role of the penal system in modern society. This is not the bygone age of medieval savagery.  Whilst it would be dishonest to admit that there is a measure of retribution in punishment, it must be emphasised that that is not the only role the system serves. Sometimes, it’s not even the primary role. The penal system must serve the purpose of rehabilitation and reform, over and above the retributive purpose. The subtraction of liberty, is punishment enough, without the other discomforts that have come to be accepted as incidental to it. Whichever you look at it, sadism, has no place in the doctrine of  punishment. You can’t forget a better society through sadism.

I doubt that subjecting prisoners to the worst and most dehumanising conditions including sex deprivation for years on end, serves any beneficial penal purpose. It’s just sadism. Many of those who would readily shout to the contrary, can hardly  survive a week without sex. When punishment is brutal, it hardens the criminal. It does not reform them. When it is blended with a measure of mercy, it keeps the door and opportunity for reforming the prisoner, open.

Take the example of a child who is perennially disciplined through  the stick with all considerations of love and empathy removed, from the equation. Are they likely to turn out right? I doubt. Prisoners are like children of the clergy. You know how the latter generally turn out. Hear me out, there is an exception to every general rule. It is thanks to the brutal denial of their self-hood, and suppression of human emotion, all done in a bid to forge a perfect human being through pain. Children of the clergy can’t wear earrings; they can’t wear mini skirts; they can’t wear caps sideways; they can’t date; they can’t listen to any music other than gospel music; they can’t imbibe. They are subjected to multiple discomforts all bearing upon them at the same time; and watch the world move on while they are leashed to a strict code of living that is often both doctrinally wrong and  psychologically harmful. When they end up robbers, rapists, thugs and engage in other rebellious conduct, we wonder how it came about when their parents are such socially examplary people. In Setswana we say; “nama ya patelediwa e thuba pitsa”. Overdo anything, and disaster is guaranteed. That’s includes punishment.

Chief On Friday

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