Pollsmoor prisoners unhappy about transfers to other jails

2016-12-30 16:07
Pollsmoor Prison (Picture: Supplied)

Pollsmoor Prison (Picture: Supplied)

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Cape Town - Many Pollsmoor prisoners are unhappy about being transferred from the Western Cape facility following a court ruling to reduce overcrowding, the acting regional commissioner for correctional services said on Friday.

"They are taking it very badly. No one wants to be transferred," said Freddie Engelbrecht.

He said that what upset the prisoners was that, in some cases, they were being taken further away from their families - and often relatives could not afford the increased travel costs.

Nevertheless, Engelbrecht said, the department was committed to complying with a Western Cape High Court ruling earlier this month that stipulated that the prison population at Pollsmoor Remand Detention Facility be reduced to 150% of its accommodation capacity within the next six months.

Engelbrecht said, at his highest levels of overcrowding, Pollsmoor was 247% above its accommodation capacity.

In compliance with the recent court order, Pollsmoor plans to move a thousand of its inmates, in January and February 2017.

"In the new year, we will transfer a thousand offenders to Northern Cape and Free State facilities," Engelbrecht said.


He said that, this month, 400 sentenced offenders from the Medium A facility at Pollsmoor were moved to other Western Cape facilities and 800 remand prisoners were moved to the Medium A facility, which would not be turned into a centre for this category of prisoner who are still awaiting trial and sentencing.

Since Justice Edwin Cameron released a report in 2015 on prison overcrowding, measures have begun to be put in place to reduce the prison population.

In June, 600 prisoners were transported out of Pollsmoor to 42 other correctional services centres in the Western Cape.

Engelbrecht said in each case - even between provinces - prisoners would be transported to their new facilities by van.

Pollsmoor was currently at 185% overcrowding and, after the transfers early next year, Engelbrecht said it should reach the court-mandated target.

However, he said the concern would then be if they could maintain this target, as there was a steady stream of incoming offenders.

'Solving the problem'

He also said that the department was struggling with a shortage of staff, due to budget constraints.  In 2011, the numbers dropped from 45 000 to 41 000 staff members.

Engelbrecht said that there remained two sides of the story as to whether, despite overcrowding, prisons were helping rehabilitate criminals.

"There are real successes… where people have changed their lives by working with the social workers and psychologists; where the offenders leave prison with qualifications."

On the other hand, he said, offenders leaving the prison system continued to find it hard to get a job, due to their criminal records.

As such, he said that the reason overcrowding was so difficult to solve, was because, in fact, the root of the problem lay outside of the prison facility.

"The best thing would be to decrease unemployment; If we could get a job for everybody,” Engelbrecht suggested.

"Building more prisons is not solving the problem."

Read more on:    cape town  |  judiciary  |  crime

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