Prison. Image via unsplash

Prison journalism: Visiting conditions in Pollsmoor prison

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


Prison. Image via unsplash

“Privilege” classification, Group A, is entitled to contact visits. Unsentenced prisoners do not have contact visits regardless of the charge or the length of their pre-trial detention, although the number of visits they may receive is unlimited. Sentenced or unsentenced prisoners held in police lockups may, in practice, receive a limited number of visits, regardless of their theoretical entitlement. Police lockups have no facilities for visits since they are not supposed to hold anybody for longer than forty-eight hours, and visits may be limited to weekends only, for example.

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Frequency and Duration of Visits

The frequency and duration of visits and the number of persons allowed to visit also depend on the classification. Group D can have up to twelve visits a year; Group C twenty-four visits; Group B thirty-six visits; and Group A forty-eight visits. For all groups, the visits need to be evenly spaced in time. Only one person can visit a group D prisoner at a time; prisoners classified as C and B can be visited by up to two persons at a time; and for group A, the number of visitors is to be determined by the head of the prison. Children under the age of sixteen do not count as visitors, and their admission is subject to the suitability of the visiting facilities. A single visit for groups D through B can last up to thirty minutes; for group A, the duration is up to forty minutes.

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Visitation Procedures and Rules

Non-contact visits are conducted in specially designed booths. A row of, say, twenty prisoners may sit on stools on one side of a glass or plastic screen, with partitions separating each prisoner from the next. Facing them, through the screen, is another stool (one only) for the visitor to sit at, again separated by a partition from the next visitor. The partitions are not sufficient to soundproof each booth from the next. An intercom system, operated by buttons pushed by the person speaking, allows communication between the two sides of the screen. A warder supervising the visits may listen to the conversations through the use of an extra receiver on the inmate’s side of the partition.

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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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