By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – The situation in some of the Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) facilities has sent ripples of shock across the society.

This is in relation to the well-being and dignity of some inmates housed in those facilities.

The Deputy Commissioner of Corrections, Matingoe Phamotse said some inmates are forced to walk naked in their rooms owing to tattered clothing and sometimes the absence of proper uniforms.

In some instances, the Deputy Commissioner of Corrections said as officers they have to lend their clothes to the inmates when they are supposed to appear before the courts so that they appear presentable.

“Literally you will find some of our inmates walking naked because their clothes have worn out,” he revealed, adding that some inmates’ skin is dry as there are no cosmetics they can apply.

The issue of remandees, he said, stretches their resources to the maximum saying the unconvicted inmates use a lot of their resources even before they could be found guilty by the courts.

According to the international standards, he said every inmate should have their own bedding, he said they cannot even ensure this provision as they are incapacitated. He showed that those with proper clothes are because their families bring them those clothes. 

This act of walking naked encroaches and impinges on the human rights of the very core of the inmates dignity.

The right to clothing is tantamount to fundamental human rights.

The Experts Committee drawn from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, an intergovernmental institution with the United Nations charged with strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights, in their recent visit to Lesotho acknowledged some improvements within the correctional facilities but noted that there are still cases of human rights violations in those institutions.

On the population of inmates, the Deputy Commissioner said there is enough bed capacity but warned that the resources they have does not allow them to even handle the current population they have in the LCS facilities.

As at Thursday last week, the LCS population was sitting at 1 908, although they had not reached their maximum capacity as he said their bed capacity is 2 810.

He continued: “We are not able to feed our inmates as per, 1959 Prisons Regulations that says each inmate should have a pound of bread, a day, an ounce of sugar, a pint of fresh milk, a half-ounce of salt, a pound of fresh vegetables, one and half pound of mealie-meal, pound of fat, two pounds of beans or peas, a pound of fresh meat, two ounces of potatoes or rice, and unlimited fresh clean water.”

Phamotse said this is how an inmate’s diet should be everyday but he said since joining the institution over three decades ago, this has never happened. He said this is regardless of the court case that they lost, forcing them to cater for their inmates in this fashion.

He said most of their facilities were declared as “inhabitable”, as “hostile to humaneness” and also fit for demolition.

“…Mafeteng prison was demolished because it was nearing collapse, and we have Mokhotlong, Butha-Buthe, TY, Quthing, Qacha’s Nek, we have female correctional institution and juvenile training center including correctional staff training center that have been declared inhabitable and unfit for human living,” he said.