PRISON POPULATION PLUMMETS.Staff Reporter
“Not only have we reduced the number of prisoners, we have reduced the need for prisons.”
This statement by Inspecting Judge of Prisons Judge Dennis Searle reflects the progress that has been made in the rehabilitation of prisoners since the advent of Project H.
He was speaking at the graduation of prison inmates who successfully completed a restorative justice programme initiated by Project H creator Jasper King at Lowenstein Correctional Centre.
Judge Malan praised the program for significantly reducing the number of people who re-enter the prison system when they are released on parole.
Five years ago, four out of every 1 000 South Africans were imprisoned. Today that figure is 1 out of every 9 000, one of the lowest in the world.
Overcrowding is now a thing of the past due to the decrease in the number of awaiting trial prisoners.
Malan fired off some statistics: Umtata Medium C prison was built to accommodate 580 inmates. It houses 300; Johannesburg Medium C Prison was built for 1 300. It currently holds 900.
Dwarsriver Prison went from excess capacity of 168% five years ago to 70% today, Allandale Prison from 190% to 82%, Robertson prison from 175% to 60% and Brandvlei Juvenile Detention Centre from 145% to 22%.
To prove to himself that it was real and not just figures on paper, he visited the previously notorious Pollsmoor Prison’s Admissions Centre, the section of the prison that houses awaiting-trial inmates.
In one communal cell he visited there were merely 4 prisoners in a cell built for 38.
“I was surprised how spotless the toilet was, compared to how disgusting it was in previous years,” said Malan.
The number of awaiting-trial prisoners in South Africa had decreased from 64 000 five years ago to 4500 today.
“We want to bring that down to 1000 within the next few months. And with Project H’s help, we will,” Malan said.