"Blade runner" Oscar Pistorius could be vulnerable to gang rape if he is sent to prison, Annette Vergeer, a probation officer, said during arguments on Tuesday, adding that it would be better if he was put under house arrest.
Vergeer described South Africa's prison as an unsafe environment for Pistorius as it held dangers of drugs, gangs and sodomy, besides the risks of transmission of HIV and tuberculosis due to overcrowding and poor sanitation.
She also added that the prisons were ill-equipped to meet the needs of people with disabilities.
Prison would "break" Pistorius, and "take away his future," she said, adding: "How can we say Pistorius will not be a victim of gang rape?" reported the National Post.
Meanwhile, the Department of Correctional Services have hit back at these allegations and have termed it "inaccurate." In a statement cited by The Telegraph, the Department of Correctional Services said it did not want to interfere in the case, but "the image of our correctional centres, our department and our government in general is at stake. We therefore deem it appropriate that we register our concern."
"The reports seek to create an impression that our centres are fraught with, among other things, unhygienic conditions, gang violence and sodomy or rape," it said. "Such allegations about the conditions in our centres are inaccurate."
However, studies paint a different picture. As per a Mail and Guardian report, in 2011, the correctional service department owed R 1.3-billion in damages to prisoners and former inmates. This included R 976-million for "bodily injury/assault" and R 4.5-million for rape.
Pistorius, who was convicted last month of the manslaughter of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, is expected to know this week if he will be sent to jail. Pistorius shot his girlfriend through a locked lavatory door of his Pretoria home, believing her to be an intruder. But the state wanted to prosecute the double-amputee arguing that it was a premeditated murder, and that he knew he was shooting his girlfriend.
But the state lost its case.
On Wednesday, Steenkamp's cousin, Kim Martin, told the court that Pistorius ruined his girlfriend's family when he shot her dead. This has ruined our whole family. It has ruined Uncle Barry and Aunty June. Reeva was everything to them. They adored her," Martin told the court, referring to Steenkamp's parents.