Inside South Africa’s most dangerous prison

A new report by CNN reveals the inhumane treatment of inmates in South Africa’s most notorious prison: Pollsmoor, in Cape Town.

CNN’s David McKenzie reported that some of the cells in the prison are at more than 300% overcapacity, having been given exclusive access into the prison.

A single cell, designed for 19 people, contained 86 detainees – McKenzie reported – adding that all the inmates shared a single toilet and shower.

Acting head of Pollsmoor Remand, Cecil John Jacobs, told CNN that the treatment of prisoners was inhumane before adding: “we don’t invite any offender here, they come here because they do alleged crimes.”

Some of South Africa’s most dangerous criminals are held in Pollsmoor Prison, including the numbers gangs: 26s, 27s and 28s.

With more than 4,000 inmates, Pollsmoor Prison’s awaiting trial section is wildly overcrowded.

In September 2015, two prisoners died and many others were deemed to be at high risk of exposure to an infectious disease spread by a rodent infestation at the Tokai institution.

Groundup noted that in 2015, Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron released a report following a visit to the prison, pointing to the poor state of the facility.

Read: How much each prisoner costs SA taxpayers to stay behind bars

And earlier this month, non-profit organisation Sonke Gender Justice, filed an application at the Western Cape High Court, challenging the “deplorable” conditions for staff and detainees inside the prison.

Ariane Nevin, Sonke Gender Justice policy development and advocacy officer, said that since 2011, the overcrowding rate at Pollsmoor has ranged between 200% and 300%.

Statistics from the Correctional Services Department put the population on 16 November 2015 at 238%.

“These figures don’t really prepare you to see how these detainees live. We heard from former detainees how there were 65 people sharing a cell meant for 25 people. Detainees don’t have access to clean blankets. The toilets aren’t partitioned off and most people don’t get hot water,” Nevin told Groundup.

A Pollsmoor spokesman blamed overcrowding on the high volumes of cases and slow turn-around times by the courts, adding that the facility was addressing the issue.

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Inside South Africa’s most dangerous prison