Oscar Pistorius Changes Prisons To Accommodate Disability

Convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius was transferred from his South African prison to a correctional facility equipped to handle inmates with disabilities. Pistorius was convicted of murder in July for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, after his original sentence for culpable homicide was overturned on appeal. He is currently serving a six-year sentence.

Pistorius’ name has been inextricably linked throughout his career, criminal investigation, and trial to the fact that he is a double-leg below-knee amputee. Pistorius was born with the condition femular hemimelia and utilized running blades to compete in track events during his career, which earned him the nickname “Blade Runner.” In 2012, Pistorius successfully petitioned the International Association of Athletics Federations in order to be allowed to participate against able-bodied athletes in the Beijing Olympics. The original IAAF ruling contended that Pistorius’ carbon-fiber running blades would be an unfair advantage in the competition.

On February 14, 2013, Pistorius unloaded several shots through the locked door of his en-suite bathroom, claiming he believed an intruder had entered his residence through the bathroom window that he had left open that evening. He had instead murdered Steenkamp, who had locked herself in the bathroom with her cell phone for reasons that have never been determined. A neighbor gave a statement that she had heard an argument earlier that night between two people that she believed to be Pistorius and Steenkamp, an allegation that Pistorius denied.

A key element of Pistorius’ trial was his claim that he felt especially vulnerable when he approached his bathroom armed with a 9 mm pistol because he was not wearing his prosthetic legs; however, former lead detective Hilton Botha told Vanity Fair that he questioned that statement due to the angle of the bullets in the door, which suggested that they had been fired from a greater height than Pistorius would achieve without his prosthetics.

[Image by Siphiwe Sibeko/Getty Images]

During his sentencing hearing, Pistorius made a point of removing his prosthetic legs in order to cross the courtroom. Many felt that the act was an attempt to portray Pistorius in a sympathetic and defenseless light, and that in spite of his disability, Pistorius was a wealthy professional athlete living in a gated community and was capable of holding his own in an altercation.

Text messages between the couple and testimony from Steenkamp’s friends and family suggested that there was serious strife within the relationship. Pistorius maintains that he lived in fear of an intruder because of South Africa’s high crime rate, that he did not notice his girlfriend was not in bed next to him on that fateful night, and that he had no reason to want her dead. He was an athlete renowned on the international stage with several high-profile sponsorship deals, including Nike and Oakley, and his previous run-ins with the law (crashing his boat into a pier in a suspected reckless driving incident, deliberately slamming a heavy door on a woman attempting to enter a party and causing injuries, firing his gun in a restaurant) were smoothed over with minimal publicity.

Pistorius was initially sentenced in 2014 to five years for culpable homicide in the death of Steenkamp. He became eligible for and was granted early release in August of 2015, but the prosecution in his case appealed the conviction in order to pursue a murder conviction. In April of 2016, he was convicted again, this time of murder.

Oscar Pistorius weeps openly in court
[Image by Themba Hadebe/AP Images]

Pistorius’ new facility is said to be outfitted with amenities such as baths to better accommodate disabled inmates. He could be eligible for parole in two to four years, and all attempts to date to extend his sentence for the murder conviction have been rejected.

[Featured Image by Marco Longari/Getty Images]