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Prison life: The daily routine of an inmate


Prison life: The daily routine of an inmateFawaaz Adendorff was incarcerated at Pollsmoor Correctional Centre and participated in the restorative justice programme while in prison.

by Fawaaz Adendorff

25-05-2023 18:36

in Prison Journalism

Prison cell with inmate. Image: Pixabay

Prison life is a world on its own. Being controlled by a prison system with all the strict rules that you must follow as a prison inmate, knowing that your rights have been taken away. Never knowing if it is day or night, always wondering what the time is, and also, on the other side of your mind, you do not even want to know what the date is.


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THE CAGES Starting from the reception, which is named the cages , it is where your time starts in prison, which prisoners call a world of its own. So, in the reception, you come in handcuffed and placed in a cage with a board sign that states where you come from. It is also a place where you might find people that do not like you outside. Two wardens will collect you at the cage for fingerprints and to register you into the prison system.

From there, on your way to where you do your fingerprints, you hear different voices in the reception-strange languages and looks. The prison has a different type of smell. It is not a normal smell because, with the combination of the cleaning chemicals and tobacco smells, it is strong and also has an impact on your well-being as a newcomer, feeling nervous and scared, thinking about ways to escape or to make the wardens let you go. At that moment, you feel willing to do anything just to get out.


From staying in the cages for a few hours where you did your fingerprints and also meeting with people from your neighborhood and all-around Cape Town, like different types of gangs and backgrounds, it is just so scary and it feels unreal, knowing you're not going home soon and facing the unexpected. From the cages, the wardens open the gates of the cages one by one, calling you by name, surname, and jail number.

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From there, the wardens then ask you to form one straight line on your knees with hands on your head. Once all the names are called out and all the inmates are present, sitting in one straight line, we are asked to stand up and follow the warden to a room where they undergo a body search before entering the courtroom section.


It is a building with four big rooms and two small rooms for the warden's office and storeroom. The four big rooms are for the inmates that are split into two different groups. One group is called the ouens [gang members] and the other group is called the fraanse [non-gang members]. The two groups are being identified by the wardens for their prison gang/number and are placed in different rooms because the two groups cannot be together.

Normally, bad things happen to the fraanse in the ouens room, like rape, robbery, abuse and more. After you are placed in a room, the wardens then bring two or more inmates called the gang boys [aisle cleaners and assistants], helping wardens serve food to inmates and keep the prison section clean as part of their job description.

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THE DAILY ROUTINE In the morning, we wake up at 5:30, go to the bathroom, and clean ourselves. Then, from there, each group has a duty to clean the toilet or the room. The groups get a week to clean, and that is how the duties rotate. When everything is done, the groups then prepare for inspection.

After inspection, it should be 7:00. That is when the wardens and their inmate assistants, which the other inmates call gang boys , are also locked up in similar setups like the normal cells, with a double gate, and a very thick metal door.

So, as the wardens are at the inmates' hostel, only one room at a time is served with the porridge. It depends entirely on the room's behaviour how cold or hot their breakfast is and on the scale of food you will get. So now you must know, sometimes it is impalla pap porridge with one small spoon of brown sugar, served together with tea with no milk and sugar. The same goes when it is matabela porridge. Sometimes the prison serves Jungle Oats, one vienna (sausage), and some days you will get one vienna and two slices of bread. And every Tuesday, two boiled eggs and two slices of bread are also served with tea with no taste.

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For me, there is no favourite food because they use the same spice for all the meals they serve to the inmates. In the juvenile centre section A, the wardens dish out most of the meats for themselves and take them home with them. There are two meals per day: breakfast is served in the morning at 8:00, then locked up again until our next meal. We will be lucky if we get an hour of exercise, depending on the prison vibe and weather.

Our breakfast is sometimes served with boiled eggs and three slices of bread and tea without sugar. Then we wait until 12:00 to get our last meal, which is sometimes chicken, beef. Sometimes white, sometimes spicy yellow. But all the meals that are served are in very small portions like we would get a bone with a piece of meat with little gravy, and it does not taste good.

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When the inmates are served their food, they must bring their plastic cups and the laptop bucket the food is dished in, and that is the rotation with the four rooms on the hostel. If the dishing is done, the inmates are once again locked up behind thick metal gates and are ordered to eat by their bedside. When the inmates are done eating, they will get exercise
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