Life at Pollsmoor Prison has become better these days.
Not only is the jail much cleaner, but the bandiete are healthier, thanks to better medical care and a gym donated by billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson.
Living conditions at the country’s most notorious jail came under the spotlight last year following Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron’s damning report.
After a visit to the mang, the judge said he was “deeply shocked by the extent of overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, sickness, and the emaciated physical appearance of detainees”.
He also added that “the overall deplorable living conditions were profoundly disturbing”.
The judge made several recommendations, and yesterday, Parliament’s select committee on security and justice, led by Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha, made a follow-up visit to see if the jail conditions improved.
And it appears jail bosses took Cameron seriously – after a three-hour tour, committee members said they were “happy” to see several changes.
However, overcrowding still remains an issue, says committee chairperson Dumisani Ximbi.
“I am happy with the level of improvement I have seen so far,” he says.
“We saw the laundry and the clinic so there is a little bit of improvement.
“The only thing I am worried about is the overcrowding.
“We are going to sit down with the officials who can tell us their strategies and how to reduce the overcrowding.
“It’s also cleaner, [the last time] there were reports of [a rat infestation] but I didn’t see one [rat].
“The kitchen and laundry is also neat and I am very happy.”
Yesterday’s visit included a look at the facility’s vast laundry room, huge kitchen, reception and recreational area and even a tour of former president Nelson Mandela’s cell.
In the laundry room, officials reported two of their washing machines have been broken for more than two years.
“We currently wash 80 blankets a day, and we wash up to 800 blankets a month,” he says.
There are currently 103 inmates staying in the hospital section, including men recovering from circumcisions performed.
The officials also showed off their gym equipment which was donated by Virgin Active owner, Richard Branson.
The department’s regional commissioner, Delekile Klaas, says Pollsmoor is one of the “big five” jails in SA with a population exceeding 10 000.