For convicted inmates it’s all about rehab but awaiting-trial juveniles want warm porridge and more meat

28 June 2017 - 17:58 By Naledi Shange
Dr Mathole Motshekga. File photo.
Dr Mathole Motshekga. File photo.
Image: Kevin Sutherland

The priorities of juvenile inmates awaiting trial from behind the bars of the Johannesburg Correctional Services facility are far different to those who have already spent years at the facility.

Addressing officials during a site visit by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services‚ led by chairman Dr Mathole Motshekga‚ young inmates‚ some of whom had been behind bars since 2015‚ did not stress about continuing with their studies while at the centre but instead called for better food and bedding.

“We are not provided with sufficient toiletries‚” said one inmate dressed in a bright yellow uniform‚ with the words “remand detainee” printed on it.

“We are given only a small piece of soap and no Vaseline‚” the teenage boy told officials.

Another complained about the food.

“There is enough meat for everyone but they keep cutting our portions of meat in half‚ giving us small portions‚” one said.

“We are being given bread everyday for breakfast. They don’t give us porridge anymore like they used to do‚” another added.

“The mattresses are not in a good condition‚” another inmate complained.

Motshekga asked the young inmates whether any of them were still attending school.

“No‚ we dropped out‚” a few sitting on the grass in front of him murmured.

Motshekga dwelled on the importance of education‚ telling the youngsters they were at a correctional centre and not a jail‚ and should prepare to be meaningful citizens upon their release.

Meanwhile‚ a short distance from them at another section of the prison‚ a group of convicted inmates‚ dressed in orange and black prison gear‚ some of whom had already spent years behind bars‚ had more pressing issues.

Summing up their issues‚ inmate Ishmael Moshoeshoe complained about a lack of education facilities‚ medication for HIV positive inmates‚ overcrowding and the dire conditions they lived in.

He complained that the current prison system was failing them and was not promoting any rehabilitation.

“You are failing us dismally‚” said Ishmael Moshoeshoe‚ an inmate serving a life sentence for murder and other crimes.

“The apartheid system was better.... The white people were doing it better. You are failing us‚” Moshoeshoe said to the applause of fellow inmates.

The purpose of Motshekga’s visit was to observe the general conditions of incarceration for inmates.

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”.