Grootvlei Prison houses most state patients

The Citizen
As of August 2019, the already overcrowded Grootvlei Prison, located outside Bloemfontein in the Free State, houses the largest number of state patients, who are not technically inmates, in the country.

According to the latest report from the Department of Correctional Services, Grootvlei’s Medium A facility accommodates 29 state patients.

The South African Journal of Psychiatry defines state patients “as individuals who have been charged with criminal offences and have been declared unfit to stand trial and/or who are not criminally responsible because of their mental illness or defect”. Some of the patients are usually housed at a psychiatric facility.

The figures were revealed in a written response by the Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, to a question posed by the Democratic Alliance’s Evelyn Wilson on the Parliamentary Monitoring Group’s website regarding how the department tracks the standard of care for the state patients in these prisons. Mkhize reveals in his response that the quality of care is monitored by the Department of Correctional Services and not the Department of Health.

Over a year ago, OFM News reported that while Grootvlei Medium A facility is able to accommodate 890 prisoners, at the time, it housed 1532 prisoners.

The overcrowding at the time was exacerbated by the number of state patients who were being accommodated there while the Free State Psychiatric Complex’s Forensic ward was being renovated. In a report to delegates from the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) at the end of August 2018, the Department of Correctional Services said the renovations at the Bloemfontein Psychiatric Complex would be completed in September.

The Free State Health Department is expected to respond to the current status of FSCP’s forensic ward soon.