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Prison Journalism: Can gangsterism and violence be reduced in prison?

18/04/2024

Prison Journalism: Can gangsterism and violence be reduced in prison?Dean Mashimbwe, a Zimbabwean migrant residing in Cape Town, was incarcerated at Pollsmoor Correctional Centre from 2016 until 2017.

by Dean Mashimbwe

18-04-2024 11:00

in Prison Journalism

Prison

Image via Unsplash

During my time in Pollsmoor, I witnessed a lot of gangsterism activities and gang violence. As an eyewitness, I observed that gangsterism is more active among non-sentenced inmates than sentenced inmates. Gangsterism in prison creates an image of power and respect but also causes violence among inmates. Most people affected by the effects of gang activities are non-gang members.

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Challenges in Combating Gangsterism Gangsterism was going to be stopped, but the biggest problem in South African jails is overcrowding. Gangsterism activities are the order of the day since prisoners have nothing to do. Another main cause of not stopping gangsterism is the poor supervision of inmates. For instance, when I went to Pollsmoor, I saw that gangs are offered a room alone where they practice gangsterism day and night. By doing so, they tend to recruit other inmates who are non-gang members, and the routine continues like that.

The Impact of Overcrowding on Violence Overcrowding in prison cells also causes violence. By doing so, inmates end up forming gangs to stabilize violence, since these gangs have leaders who will control the cell to impose discipline within inmates. The main cause of prisons being overcrowded is waiting for trial inmates, which leads to tension, hostility, and violence. In Pollsmoor, the most aggressive gang members are found in the maximum security prison.

The Role of Society in Sustaining Gangsterism Lack of reintegration into society also causes gangsterism. You find that some inmates already come to prison while they are gangsters. In South Africa, gangs are practised in neighbourhoods like Manenberg and Hanover Park. These are dangerous places which cause gangsterism. Also, the routine of going in and out of jail of an inmate, they tend to go back to the same society unchanged in lifestyle and social circle upon release. This promotes gangsterism as inmates already know how to penetrate gangsterism in order to survive when they go back to prison.

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Efforts to Reduce Gangsterism Although gang culture is the main activity in South African jails, the Correctional Services have made a lot of efforts to reduce gangsterism in prison. Anti-gang programs are being done in prisons to reduce gangsterism. When we were at Pollsmoor, former inmates and former gang members used to come to prison via these programs to encourage and motivate inmates not to join gangsterism.

Also, some of the efforts made were to keep inmates busy during the day so that they get occupied. Inmates were offered jobs; some went to school and did courses. Also, church services were held. All these were efforts offered by the prison facilities to discourage gangsterism in jail. However, regardless of all these efforts, gangsterism in South Africa will never end because it is a prison culture that is passed from generation to generation.

DISCLAIMER: Submission published as received

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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

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

If you have any questions you would like to ask our prison journalists, WhatsApp us on 060 011 0211.

Do you have contact with a prison inmate who would like to write for The South African website? If so, send an email to info@thesouthafrican.com or a WhatsApp to 060 011 0211.

You can also follow @TheSAnews on Twitter and The South African on Facebook to get the latest prison journalism articles.

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