South Africa: Court authorizes student prisoners' cell computer use

By : Samira Njoya

Date : mardi, 14 novembre 2023 16:21

In the digital age, students need to access some tech tools. Unfortunately, in certain settings, this is challenging. In that context, South Africa is taking steps to provide some of those tools for its inmates.

The South African Supreme Court of Appeal has granted the government a 12-month deadline to formulate and promulgate an updated policy for correctional centers, enabling inmates to use personal computers in their cells for educational purposes.

Henceforth, an inmate enrolled in an accredited higher education institution requiring a computer for academic purposes will be permitted to use one without internet access in their cell.

"I observe that ever more educational materials are available in electronic form, and such materials are most conveniently and economically accessed on a computer. [...] Coursework is now routinely composed and submitted electronically. I have found that the right to further education includes the right to pursue that education. If a prisoner has a personal computer, it is a tool of indispensable value in the pursuit of many courses of further education, " said Judge David Unterhalter.

The decision to review the policy comes after a Johannesburg inmate, serving a 20-year sentence for robbery, complained that he was struggling to complete his computer course because he couldn't work from his cell, where he spent most of his time. Pending a review of the policy, the judge declared that the inmate has the right to use his PC in his cell as long as he remains enrolled at a recognized institution of higher or university education in South Africa.

However, the inmate must make the computer available for inspection at all times, and any breach of the rules by an individual inmate could result in the computer being seized.

Samira Njoya


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