Pollsmoor has 9 000 prisoners too many - dept

Tammy Petersen, News24

Cape Town - There are almost 9 000 additional prisoners at the overcrowded Pollsmoor Prison, the provincial department of correctional services said.

This was revealed during a visit by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha on Tuesday, who met with the regional executive management team to discuss overcrowding and other issues facing the facility.

Regional commissioner Delekile Klaas said the bed space at the Tokai prison was 19 949.

“Right now we have 28 789 people here,” he said. This means there are 8 840 additional prisoners."

The department’s area commissioner, Ntobeko Mketshane, said the prison’s remand facility alone was housing more than double its capacity.

“It is extremely overcrowded,” he confirmed. “This area should hold 1 619 people, but it is currently on 4 300.”

Mketshane also pointed out the warden-to-prisoner ratio was under pressure.

“It should be 1:30, but we are standing on 1:50+,” he said.

Masutha said suspects remanded in custody were causing bottlenecks in the system.

This, he said, could be remedied should court proceedings be swifter, with fewer postponements.

“There is more or less adequate capacity for sentenced prisoners here. Remand is clearly the greatest [contributing] factor [to the overcrowding].

“If we can find ways to reduce the time it takes to finalise [court] matters, it will lead to a reduction in the number of remand prisoners and to some extent reduce the overcrowding.”

Two prisons in Vanrhynsdorp and Ceres, which are nearing completion, would also go a long way to reduce the overcrowding, he said.

The department was considering alternatives such as admission of guilt fines instead of prison time for minor offenses.

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