Pretoria - Six Pretoria Central Prison inmates, mostly serving short-term sentences for offences such as theft and fraud, were due to turn to the Pretoria High Court on Thursday in an urgent bid to have their prison conditions improved and to seek protection from dangerous inmates.
They will also ask Judge Neil Tuchten to compel Correctional Services to have a rehabilitation programme and sentence plan in place to ensure that the community are protected against offenders when they are released.
Wouter Viljoen, Stephen Fourie, Jabu Dube, Johannes Lentswe, Kgabu Mosala and Werner Wessels believe Correctional Services and the government are not only failing them but also the community, which is entitled to be protected.
Viljoen, who is serving 18 months for fraud, said in a statement before court he was sharing a single cell with Dube. Other single cells, he said, housed up to three inmates.
They have to make do with dirty mattresses and no bedding. They are locked up for 18 hours a day. These cells have no ventilation and they battle to sleep in the heat.
Viljoen said in terms of the Geneva Convention, he and the others are entitled to a minimum of 3 344m² of floor space and 8.5m3 of air space in a communal cell.
They do not get any exercise in the open air and can only walk around from 8am until 1pm in the gym area. Their food is also served in this area and as there are no tables or chairs, they have to eat in their overcrowded cells. There are also no utensils.
Viljoen said since his admission he and the others hadn’t been medically examined to establish whether they suffered from any diseases.
He said the main reason why prisoners contracted diseases in jail was because of the lack of adequate health care services.
Viljoen and the others also complained that they battled to prepare for outstanding cases against them, due to a lack of law books and only four payphones catering for about 360 inmates. This made it very difficult to contact their lawyers, he said.
One of their main gripes, however, is the lack of rehabilitation programmes in prison.
He said the department was allocated R16.7 billion in the last financial year but still couldn’t comply with their mandate for the community regarding rehabilitation programmes. Viljoen said he was never assessed and there was no correctional sentence plan in place for him as prescribed by the law.
In this regard he referred to the Sunday rapist, Jaco Steyn, who raped again after he was released on parole. He also referred to other similar cases.
The other five applicants had similar complaints.
Wessels added that his life was at risk in jail as he was forced to join the 28 gangsters.
“They want to have sex with me and threaten to stab me if I tell the officials.
“Drugs are freely obtainable in jail and I have a serious drug problem, for which I do not get help,” he added.