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Pretoria - Female inmates at the Pretoria Central Correctional facility have threatened to go on a hunger strike should they not be allowed to have cosmetics and other luxuries they say are vital to their femininity.
Calling from prison, an inmate who did not want to be named, said the cutting back on cosmetics, a reduction in cleaning materials for use in communal cells, as well as less time to exercise and no family days were the main reasons the inmates were threatening to take action.
“I speak on behalf of all inmates, sentenced and awaiting-trial prisoners,” she said.
“We all have the same problems here. Since the new head of the centre has taken over, we are treated like animals and not like women.”
The inmate, who is serving a 10-year sentence for murder, said everything had changed after the new head of the centre took over earlier this year.
“Since Feikie Mochesane has been appointed, our cosmetics have been limited, as [have] materials to clean our cells.
“There are about 40 to 50 women in a communal cell and we cannot keep the toilet and bath facilities clean with five litres of disinfectant every three months,” she said.
She said they were previously allowed to have as much soap, deodorant, face and body cream as they pleased. Now soap, for example, was limited to one bar a month.
Other issues included a lack of exercise and no opportunity to spend time with their families on family day.
“We are locked up like animals for 23 hours a day,” she said.
“We have also not had a family day this year. We have been given no explanation for this and feel it is very unfair. We have complained about this many times and nothing has been done.”
Family days are opportunities when the inmates are allowed to see their families for an entire day. They have a meal together and are able to spend quality time together.
Gauteng Correctional Services spokesman Ofentse Morwane said nothing had changed since Mochesane took over.
“She interacts with the prisoners on a regular basis while the area commissioner, Zebulon Monama, recently addressed the women about the allegations.
“Following the interaction with prison authorities, the inmates did not carry out their threat of going on a hunger strike,” he said.
Morwane said inmates were permitted to have cosmetics at all times. However, according to prison policy, cosmetics were limited for control purposes.
Space to store cosmetics was also an issue as each inmate had one locker.
“Hygiene is one of the basic requirements and inmates are encouraged to clean their cells on a daily basis. The allegations that there is shortage of cleaning material are incorrect and misleading as there is sufficient of such material at the centre,” he said.
Morwane said only sentenced offenders were entitled to family days as spending quality time with family was vital for rehabilitation.
“It is true that inmates at the female correctional facility have not had a family day to date. But centre management is currently busy with plans to have one.
“Important to note is that family days for offenders are not a right but rather a privilege,” he said.
Offenders (both sentenced and awaiting trial) still had normal visits from their families on a regular basis, he said.
“Awaiting-trial prisoners get their visits every Tuesday and Thursday, while sentenced offenders get their visits on weekends [Saturday and Sunday], as well as on public holidays,” he said.