prison journalism

Prison Image: Unsplash

Prison journalism: Life Behind Bars: A Journey of Choices and Survival

Dean Mashimbwe, a Zimbabwean migrant residing in Cape Town, was incarcerated at Pollsmoor Correctional Centre from 2016 until 2017.

prison journalism

Prison Image: Unsplash

People don’t change unless they make a choice or a decision. I remember coming out of prison for my first 10 days and going back again for 3 months. I never wanted to change my lifestyle and behavior.

The Cycle of Recidivism

One morning, my friends and I returned to the shop where we had attempted shoplifting at Clicks. The security saw us through the camera and searched us, finding the items we had taken. The police were called, and we were taken to Milnerton police station. It was a Friday, and we waited until Monday to go to court. We were charged with shoplifting. This time, we weren’t nervous because we were accustomed to the experience and knew the survival skills of prison. My friends and I were sentenced to 12 months, plus an additional 3 months for not having papers to stay in the country. This time, the judge showed no mercy, as it was our third appearance in court for the same case. We were sentenced to 15 months in prison.

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Survival in Jail

The first week in prison was tough, even though we were used to it. We didn’t have anyone from outside the prison who would come to visit us. We saw some of our fellow prisoners receiving visits from friends or relatives who would bring them food and toiletries. We didn’t have anyone, as all our relatives and family were in Zimbabwe. We started attending programs such as restorative justice. That’s where I met Hiss and Celeste, who were teaching us. When I went before my parole board, I was assigned work as a visit cleaner. That’s how I survived in prison. Nhlakenipo Sihoro was a prison officer who helped me a lot; she was very kind to me.

ALSO READ: Prison journalism: My first hours after prison

Joining the Number

Prison gangsters like Insizwa and Ndoka live a luxurious life in jail. As someone who was always out doing my visit cleaning, they started giving me items like sugar, milk, money, and drugs. Let’s just say I became a smuggler. I was receiving a lot of items that were popular with other gangs. That’s when a guy initiated me into the “number.” He told me the history of the number from beginning to end. I didn’t join because I was forced; I joined because it was the main thing to do in jail when we were locked up.

ALSO READ: Prison journalism: While my friends graduated high school, I sat behind bars

Should you wish to assist in the rehabilitation of former inmates and help put money into the pockets of those who have struggled to earn a living during and after incarceration, click HERE 

DISCLAIMER: Submission published as received

RESTORE is an NGO based in Cape Town, South Africa, providing inmates at Pollsmoor Prison with restorative justice opportunities.

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