PRESS STATEMENT | LHR in Supreme Court of Appeal on prisoners’ right to use personal computers to further education

Date: 13/09/2023

Lawyers for Human Rights will be in the Supreme Court of Appeal today, 13 September 2023, representing a client in an appeal, brought by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Service and two others, against a Johannesburg High Court judgment granting the client the right to use his personal computer in his cell in order to further his studies.

In 2018, the client instituted proceedings in the Johannesburg High Court against the Minister, the National Commissioner of Correctional Services and the Head of Johannesburg Correctional Centre: Medium C challenging the provisions of the Department of Correctional Services’ Policy Procedures, Directorate Formal Education prohibiting the use of personal computers in cells in order to further his studies. He argued that the prohibition is unconstitutional and unfairly discriminated against him in line with the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act because he is incarcerated, and it infringed his constitutional right to further education.

On 27 September 2019, Matsemela AJ handed down judgment in favour of the client. The Court found that the DCS Policy unfairly discriminated against our client and was an unjustifiable limitation of the right to further education of incarcerated persons and therefore inconsistent with the Constitution. The court also ordered that the client be entitled to use his personal computer for as long as he remains a registered student with any of recognised tertiary institution in South Africa.

The state parties have appealed this judgment to the Supreme Court of Appeal and the matter will be heard today. The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services has been admitted as a friend of the Court.

This prohibition in the DCS Policy is unconstitutional and unjustifiably limits incarcerated persons’ constitutional rights to conditions of detention consistent with human dignity, including access to reading material; further education; the prohibition on unfair discrimination and human dignity.

For further information, contact:

Nabeelah Mia, Head: Penal Reform Programme


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