Convicted prisoners sent packing as Pollsmoor is converted

Pollsmoor Prison (Picture: Supplied)
Pollsmoor Prison (Picture: Supplied)

Cape Town - Sentenced inmates at Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town will be transferred to correctional centres outside the city and province as part of a mammoth effort to reduce severe overcrowding.

They would be moved over the next two months as three Cape metro prisons were converted into remand detention facilities.

Western Cape Department of Correctional Services spokesperson Simphiwe Xako said 2 500 awaiting-trial prisoners would be moved from the Pollsmoor remand facilities to Pollsmoor Medium A, Goodwood prison, and Malmesbury Medium A.

The immediate implication of this decision was that no sentenced offenders would be accommodated in the Cape metro facilities. They would either be sent to remand facilities or facilities for sentenced offenders facing further charges, he said.

In December, the Western Cape High Court ruled that the prison population at Pollsmoor remand detention facility be reduced to 150% of its accommodation capacity within the next six months.

NGO Sonke Gender Justice brought the case to court.

Overcrowding, 'horrendous' conditions

According to the ruling, the rampant overcrowding and “horrendous” conditions at the remand centre for awaiting-trial detainees at Pollsmoor had to be rectified.

Government was given two weeks to show why it could not immediately reduce the number of detainees at the facility to not more than 120% of the approved number.

Xako said the department decided to transfer the sentenced prisoners outside the city and province to create space for remand detainees at prisons in the metropole.

A “few thousand” sentenced prisoners were being transferred to the Free State and Northern Cape.

“The department has to comply with the court order, which includes the weekly inspection of all cell accommodation in the correctional facility to ensure that every cell conforms to the minimum requirements for the incarceration of inmates,” Xako said.

The remand facility of the Tokai prison was built in 1975 to hold 1 619 prisoners.

“Over the past 42 years, the numbers of Pollsmoor remand detention facility were increasing progressively due to new courts being built,” Xako said.

These included Bellville, Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain and Blue Downs. They referred their offenders and inmates to facilities such as Pollsmoor.

“As we speak, Pollsmoor has an official holding capacity of 3 900, but the current offender population stands around 8 000.”

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