Oscar Pistorius resided in a glamorous mansion in an exclusive gated community when he shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. His new digs will be much less comfortable. Pistorius, who was sentenced to five years in prison Tuesday for culpable homicide, South Africa’s equivalent of manslaughter, will now spend his days in an overcrowded and potentially dangerous government holding cell, according to media reports.
After Judge Thokozile Masipa handed down the verdict, Pistorius, 27, was taken to Kgosi Mampuru II prison, previously known as Pretoria Central, where he will likely be housed in the jail’s hospital section. The facility holding 7,000 inmates is notoriously overcrowded with sometimes up to 80 men living in cells designed for half that number. Inmates have been known to sleep two or three to a bunk, according to the Independent.
The Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons recently said South African prison gangs have been known to threaten each other with rape or HIV infection, but tuberculosis remains the biggest killer in South Africa’s prisons. The prisoners at Kgosi Mampuru II are often kept inside for up to 23 hours of the day. The jail has one doctor and five psychologist for the inmates. Pistorius will likely have access to a toilet, bed with a mattress and sheets and a pillow.
Pistorius’ defense lawyer Barrie Roux said his client’s life would be threatened even within the hospital wing of the prison. The double-amputee will have his prosthetic legs removed every evening, as “they could be a security risk,” according to penal reform campaign Lukas Muntingh. South Africa’s prison system holds a total of 128 disabled inmates.
Steenkamp, 29, was killed after Pistorius fired four shots through a bathroom door toward her in his $560,000 home on Valentine’s Day last year. The track star is expected to serve about 10 months, with the remainder of his sentence under house arrest. According to South Africa’s bill of rights, prisoners are entitled to “be detained in conditions that are consistent with human dignity, including at least exercise and the provision, at state expense, of adequate accommodation, nutrition, medical treatment.”
Masipa said she considered her sentence “fair and just, both to society and to the accused.” “A non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community,” she said. “On the other hand, a long sentence would also not be appropriate either, as it would lack the element of mercy.”