Pistorius faces prison hospital wing if sentenced to jail

Thu Oct 16, 2014 10:06am EDT
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By Mfuneko Toyana

PRETORIA (Reuters) - Oscar Pistorius will be committed to the hospital wing of one of South Africa's toughest prisons if the double-amputee Olympic track star is sentenced to jail time for killing his girlfriend, the head of the prison service said on Thursday.

On the fourth day of Pistorius' sentencing hearing, Zach Modise, who has worked in the prison service for 35 years, was questioned by the defense about conditions at the Pretoria Central Prison, Pistorius' most likely destination because of its disabled facilities.

The jail was the execution site of dozens of black political activists by South Africa's apartheid government, which handed over power after the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994.

It is also the home of apartheid death squad leader Eugene de Kock, known as 'Prime Evil', and is known for a vicious gang culture. Beatings, male rape and murder cases have been reported there in South African media.

However, Modise said the reality of the prison was a long way from the popular perception and said Pistorius' disability - his lower legs were amputated as a baby - would ensure he was kept in a separate wing.

"The Department of Correctional Services is ready to admit and detain people with disabilities," said Modise, who was also quizzed by defense lawyer Barry Roux about the problem of tuberculosis among inmates at the prison.

Pressed to give details about the prison's population and facilities for the disabled, Modise conceded that there was only one resident doctor for every 7,000 inmates.

Modise said Pistorius would have access to a cell of his own and that a suitability test would be conducted to determine the athlete's particular needs.   Continued...

South African Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius  arrives at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, October 16, 2014.  REUTERS/Mike Hutchings