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‘Prison population dominated by the poor’


Ntsoaki Motaung

Almost 90 percent of inmates in correctional institutions across the country are poor, according to the Crime Prevention Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Ex-offenders (CRROA) founder Teboho Chaka.

While Chaka acknowledged that there is no study that could substantiate his claim, he said he was a prisoner for over 15 years and knew what he was talking about.

He said this during a recent Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) high-level meeting that was held in Maseru under the theme “shaping the future of corrections in Lesotho”.

“90 percent of people incarcerated are poor. They cannot afford to pay lawyers and they lose cases. The other 10 percent are those that government of the day is interested in their incarceration,” he said.

The real criminals, he added, were roaming the streets.

According to the correctional services statistics report of 2021 (latest available) published by the Bureau of Statistics (BOS) last year, a total of 2,637 people were received in correctional institutions across the country during 2021.

Of all the 2,637, Maseru Central correctional institution reported the highest percentage (28.0 percent) of persons received.

Leribe and Berea correctional institutions followed with 14.6 and 12.8 percent of persons received respectively.

The majority (43.5 percent) of the people received in correctional institutions across the country were recorded between the ages of 21 to 30 years old, followed by those aged between 31 to 40 years with 31.8 percent, the report further showed.

It also revealed that the majority (47.4 percent) of the people received only had primary education and 14.1 percent completed high school.

“Lowest percentage (4.1 percent) of persons received in correctional institutions had attained a tertiary level of education,” it read.

The BOS report confirms that the country sends large numbers of people with low levels of education and low skills to prison.

Given that one’s education level is highly correlated with a person’s income, this statistic, too, suggests that adults in poverty are more susceptible to being prisoners.

And then when they leave just as penniless as they were when they went in, it becomes even more difficult for them to find employment – a perfect formula for recidivism and re-incarceration.

‘Mantšebo Phosholi, from the department of children in conflict with the law and circumstantial children, the LCS’s high-level meeting that the common crimes that children in juvenile centers had committed were theft.

“That goes to say that the social backgrounds, poverty at their homes and maybe being deserted by their parents have contributed a lot to their commission of crimes,” Posholi said.

The meeting was organised by LCS in collaboration with SkillShare Lesotho. The programme was intended to sensitise the general public about the services which LCS offers.

Rehabilitation, education, reintegration of offenders, the health of inmates, the evolution of corrections, human rights concerns, security, the plight of women and children in correctional institutions, and staff welfare are some of the topics that were covered.

Before the symposium, community outreach programmes and seminars aimed at advocacy and sensitisation of LCS were held.     

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