A prisoner incarcerated in the Johannesburg Correctional Services facility did not mince his words on Wednesday as he told Parliament officials how prison inmates had been failed by the system.
“You are failing us dismally‚” said Ishmael Moshoeshoe‚ an inmate serving a life sentence for murder and other crimes.
He has already spent 17 years at “Sun City” as the prison is popularly known.
“The apartheid system was better…. The white people were doing it better. You are failing us‚” Moshoeshoe said to the applause of fellow inmates.
He was addressing officials at a site visit attended by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services‚ led by chairman Dr Mathole Motshekga.
The purpose of the visit was to observe the general conditions of incarceration for inmates.
Summing up the issues of the prisoners‚ Moshoeshoe said there were no education facilities and that medication for inmates living with HIV was hard to come by.
He stressed that not all prisoners were given uniforms; there were not enough jerseys and blankets for all of them. Inmates were forced to shower with cold water and at times had toilet paper shortages.
“There has been no solution to overcrowding‚” he stressed. In one particular case‚ 68 prisoners shared a single cell which contained only two toilets.
There was hardly any room to move in the cell with prisoners’ belongings‚ including radios and TV sets bundled up next to their bunk beds.
Their face cloths‚ wet underwear‚ civilian clothing and bright orange uniforms hung on the burglar bars of prison cells while others lay their washed clothing on the cement ground to dry..
The stench of Jeyes Fluid lingered in the air as the wind blew shortly after an inmate mopped the cold corridors outside the cells.
Stressing the issue of overcrowding‚ Moshoeshoe said at least five prisoners were released each week while hundreds were brought in within the same period‚ mostly for parole violation.
He accused the government of not being concerned about their needs.
“All you are interested in is statistics‚” he said‚ implying that to the media‚ the department portrayed Sun City as a well-oiled machine while this was far from the truth.
He lambasted officials for bragging of obtaining clean audits while conditions inside were dire and justice was slow to come by.
Following the visit‚ however‚ Motshekga stressed that there have been problems for a long time but strides had been made by the likes of Acting Commissioner James Smalberger.
“You can see they get clean audits. Their administration is perfect‚” said Motshekga.
“Things that remain undone are things which are beyond their powers‚” he added.
This was not Motshekga’s first visit to the facility. He told the media that there “was nothing new” he had picked up in his latest interaction with the prisoners.
“What it confirms is that people have been here for long. They are frustrated… Some of the things they raised are things which are being addressed by the officials of the centre but we do understand that some of the things are being raised for emphasis‚” Motshekga said.
He said it was up to members of parliament who decide on the budget to “pull up their socks and not let down officials who are the face of government”.
Meanwhile‚ Moshoeshoe warned that a lack of rehabilitation programmes in the facility made it a breeding ground for more criminal activity.
“Once these people get out of here‚ your alarm systems and cameras won’t help you‚” he said‚ emphasising that they would return to the world of crime because they were never rehabilitated.
“Stop labelling this place as a correctional service but call it a prison because that it is what it is. We are being punished here….”
Earlier this week‚ pictures of scantily-dressed woman who came to give entertainment to the prisoners on Youth Day surfaced on social media.
Following the incident‚ Acting National Commissioner James Smalberger said that such an event should never have taken place in a correctional environment.
An investigation was underway which could see 13 prison officials lose their jobs.
Commenting on the matter‚ Motshekga called for the department to be allowed to conduct their investigation in order to reveal the truth of how the incident happened.
Source: Times Live