Apartheid jails better - inmate
A prisoner in a Johannesburg correctional services facility did not mince his words yesterday as he told parliament officials how prison inmates had been failed by the system.
"You are failing us dismally," said Ishmael Moshoeshoe, who is serving a life sentence for murder and other crimes at Johannesburg's Medium B prison in Naturena.
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 speaking to officials at a site visit attended by parliament's portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, led by chairman Mathole Motshekga.
The purpose of the visit was to observe the general conditions of incarceration for the inmates.
Summing up the issues of the prisoners, Moshoeshoe said there were no education facilities and medication for inmates living with HIV was hard to come by.
He said not all prisoners had uniforms and there were not enough jerseys and blankets for all of them. Inmates were forced to shower in cold water and at times there was no toilet paper.
"There has been no solution to overcrowding," he said.
In one case 68 prisoners shared a single cell that contained only two toilets, he said.
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 bars of prison cells and their washed clothing was left on the cement ground to dry.
Moshoeshoe said at least five prisoners were released each week while hundreds were brought in within the same period, mostly for parole violations.
He accused the government of not being concerned about their needs.
"All you are interested in are statistics," he said.
He lambasted officials for bragging about obtaining clean audits when conditions inside were dire and justice was slow.
Moshoeshoe warned that a lack of rehabilitation programmes made it a breeding ground for more criminal activity.
Motshekga said there had been problems for a long time but strides had been made by acting commissioner James Smalberger and others.
"You can see they get clean audits. Their administration is perfect," said Motshekga.