MUSIC PASSION: Pollsmoor inmate Nombuyiselo Ngesi, 40
Prison authorities have launched a massive search for inmates, but it’s not what you think.

The Department of Correctional Services is looking for the most talented entertainers behind bars and has launched the UR Slam Factor Inmate Talent Search.

On Monday at the Pollsmoor Correctional Centre, bandiete belted out songs, showed their dance moves and recited poems to try and make the cut.

The talent search is the brainchild of Shirley Paulse, the CEO of Women Taking Action.

The Tokai NGO works with prisoners to try and improve their conditions in jail.

It previously ran a pap smear campaign for female offenders.

Shirley says she got the idea for the talent show two years ago and wants to break the stereotypes people form of prisoners.

“If you come to prison, the community automatically label you as jailbirds. But how many innocent prisoners are there?" she asks.

“They can’t go back into the community because they don’t have enough money [to make a living].”

“The area commissioner and I are always in communication, I told him I want to start this talent show to create change.”

One hopeful is Nombuyiselo Ngesi, 40, who says she wasn’t nervous taking the stage because singing is her passion.

“I’ve always wanted to be a musician, and I’ve been in the industry before, but it didn’t work out. I believe it wasn’t my time,” she says.

“I am praying that I win the talent search, so that it can be a door opener for me, cause I don’t want to go back and do the things I was doing.”

Area Commissioner Clifford Mketshane says after seeing the talent during the auditions, he is as excited as the prisoners.

The competition boasts a panel of well-known judges, such as comedian Gino Fernandez, musician Auriel Hayes and actress Michelle Maxwell.

Auditions started on February 6 and will run until the end of April, with the judges set to audition about 1200 inmates and parolees.

The finals will take place on April 29, where the winner will be announced at a gala event.