Will Oscar Pistorius' Prosthetic Legs Be Allowed In Prison? The Answer Is Complicated

On Tuesday, South African Judge Thokozile Masipa finally brought to an end one of the highest-profile international legal dramas in recent memory. For his conviction for culpable homicide in the killing of Reeva Steenkamp, Masipa sentenced ex-Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius to five years in prison, concluding a trial process that lasted more than seven months. And now, with Pistorius having already spent a night in jail, questions about the conditions he'll face have been swirling, this one in particular: will Oscar Pistorius keep his prosthetic legs in prison?

It's a crucial question for his quality of life while behind bars — Pistorius has been a double-amputee since early childhood, and the twin prostheses he wears as a result allow him to walk, move and live like anybody else. He's so skilled and swift on them, as you may recall, that he won Olympic gold in 2012. And given the reputation of where he's headed to, the infamous Kgosi Mapuru II prison (formerly known as Pretoria Central Prison), whether or not he'll be allowed to use them is a pivotal question. It goes without saying that Pistorius is much more vulnerable to harm when unable to wear his prosthetic legs, and Kgosi Mapuru II is reportedly a very brutal penitentiary.

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The answer, sad to say, is not entirely clear. Luckily for Pistorius, it is possible that he'll be allowed to maintain his prosthetic legs, and that would certainly be good news for him. According to the Toronto Star, who spoke to the prison's correctional services spokesperson, there are currently two other inmates at Kgosi Mapuru II who use prosthetic legs, so there's at the very least a precedent.

When night falls, however, this will reportedly change — The Independent spoke to South African penal reform campaigner Lukas Muntingh, Pistorius' prosthetic legs are considered potential security risks, and as such, they could be removed every evening.

Potentially they could be a security risk. Anything can be. Toothbrushes are a security risk because they sharpen them and use them as a weapon.

Basically, Pistorius will have the ability to walk and move (to the extent he gets this opportunity in a massively overcrowded prison) as he normally would in the daylight hours, but come nighttime, his prosthetics could be taken from him. He likely won't be able to maintain anything like the world-class fitness levels which he had while living and working as one of the world's most famous athletes, either.

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Soit doesn't sound good — another disabled inmate at the prison, convicted rapist Eric Viljoen, recently spoke out to the Daily Maverick, complaining of inadequate conditions, and abusive guards.

There are also single cells in the hospital section in H block. It’s quite flat there so it’s better for people like Oscar, or me. If something goes wrong at night, it will take two or three hours to get help. There are no intercoms there, you just have to shout and bang on the doors. If a member does appear, it’s up to them how long it’ll take to get help. ... Kgosi Mampuru is not for me, or Oscar. The experience here isn’t as bad as the attitudes of the officials. When they search the cells, which they do every weekend, there are members who like to klap inmates and give them a good hiding. Even though they’ve never hit me, I call them animals sometimes.

Pistorius' first night was reportedly spent in the facility's hospital section, mentioned above, and while that immediately sounds safer than being dumped into the general population, it does also pose some threats of its own. In particular, defense attorney Barry Roux cited the risk of Pistorius contracting tuberculosis, which is a huge problem in Kgosi Mapuru II — in addition to the horrifying threat of forcible HIV contraction through prison rape, tuberculosis is the biggest killer in the South African prison system, according to CNN.

It's entirely possible that Pistorius won't have to weather the full five years at Kgosi Mapuru II, however — as was reported after his sentencing, he'll be eligible to negotiate for a release into house arrest after just one-sixth of his sentence is served, which is 10 months from now.

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