News / Prisons & Criminal Justice

Civil society organisations recognise government’s efforts in reducing overcrowding in Pollsmoor Remand

“It always seems impossible until it is done.”
— Nelson Mandela (former inmate at Pollsmoor Correctional Centre).

As part of an historic court decision in December 2016, the Western Cape High Court ordered the government to reduce overcrowding levels at Pollsmoor Remand Detention Facility (RDF) to 150% by the end of June 2017. As of 30 June 2017, the Department of Correctional Services’ (DCS) official statistics showed that for the first time in more than a decade, Pollsmoor RDF was operating at 147.62% of its approved capacity as a result of sustained efforts of DCS and the broader criminal justice sector.

These efforts include the relocation of sentenced inmates from Pollsmoor, Goodwood and Malmesbury Correctional Centres to make space for remand detainees. The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services staff also report that they have seen a significant improvement since the judgment. Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) and their legal representatives in the case, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), wish to recognise the DCS’s achievement in taking steps to reduce overcrowding and improve the living conditions of inmates. Sonke and LHR hope to see overcrowding at Pollsmoor RDF continue to decline with this continued effort by the Minister and the DCS.

However, significant challenges still remain.

In its judgment, the High Court also held that the government had failed to provide the inmates with adequate exercise, nutrition, ablution facilities and health care services – a constitutional obligation owed to all inmates – and ordered the government to formulate a comprehensive plan to address this. While the DCS, through consultation with the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPS), has developed a plan to address a number of these issues, other deficiencies highlighted by Justice Cameron’s report on Pollsmoor RDF in 2015 remain.

The Minister’s final report states that the prison’s ablution facilities cannot be increased because the building’s plumbing does not allow for the installation of additional sinks, showers and toilets, but the plan does not include any further steps to remedy this, such as seeking to rehabilitate the building and improve its plumbing. Further, inmates are currently still not being provided with meals according to the intervals prescribed by the Correctional Services Act, with inmates having to wait more than 14 hours between supper and breakfast the next morning.

Finally, the Minister’s report claims that ventilation has been improved, but provides no evidence regarding the quality of ventilation. Sonke and LHR continue to appeal to the DCS to allow an independent body to conduct an assessment of the facility’s quality of air and ventilation to verify this claim.

Sonke and LHR are hopeful that the DCS and broader JCPS cluster will continue to demonstrate collective political will to ensure safe and humane conditions for detainees in Pollsmoor RDF and other facilities in line with our Constitutional values and look forward to working with government, including National Treasury, and other civil society partners to realise the human rights of inmates in South Africa.


Sonke Gender Justice: Ariane Nevin, National Prisons Specialist – 0832550963,

Lawyers for Human Rights: Clare Ballard, Attorney (Head of LHR Penal Reform Programme) – 0746265071

Afrikaans and isiXhosa speaking media contacts are also available on request.

31 July 2017
You may also like
Civil society organisations disappointed by failure of Ministry of Police to respond to SAHRC regarding xenophobic state…
7 Dec 17 – We call on the Ministry of Police to respond to the SAHRC’s letter with urgency, and …
Sonke releases 10 year anniversary video and latest Annual Report on heels of important human rights achievements
5 Dec 17 – Celebrating a decade of working to advance gender justice in South Africa and the region.
Sonke Gender Justice welcomes UNAIDS World AIDS Day report on the urgent need to reach men and boys with HIV services
1 Dec 17 – Sonke calls on governments around the world and especially in Southern and Eastern Africa, to act …
Sonke welcomes passing of Labour Laws Amendment Bill as landmark achievement for all parents in South Africa
29 Nov 17 – Sonke welcomes the acceptance of the Labour Laws Amendment Bill by the National Assembly on Tuesday …
Sonke reiterates call for Mduduzi Manana’s removal from parliament
15 Nov 17 – Sonke notes with grave concern that Mr Manana continues to serve as a member of parliament. …
Sonke stands by the women who accused Danny Jordaan of rape and call for him to be held accountable
3 Nov 17 – Sonke calls for Jordaan to be suspended from the ANC and as SAFA president with immediate …
Victory for child rights and violence prevention in South Africa as defence of reasonable chastisement ruled out of line…
20 Oct 17 – The South Gauteng High Court has ruled that parents charged with hitting their children will no …
Sonke calls for apology and retraction from King Goodwill Zwelithini regarding recent comments on corporal punishment
4 Oct 17 – Calling for a renewed commitment from the Department of Basic Education to implement the National Protocol …
“We must have zero tolerance for all forms of violence”
3 Oct 17 – Outlining the necessity of the Five Days of Violence Prevention Conference.

Send this to a friend