Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa, expressed that he was impressed with the running of Grootvlei Prison, although he raised concerns over the persistent issue of overcrowding at the facility. This was during a visit to Bloemfontein on Tuesday, when Holomisa was taken on a tour of the grounds.
During the visit it was revealed that the prison population is well over capacity with both Medium A at 159% and Medium B at 143% offenders. According to Area Commissioner, Errol Korabie, there are over 1700 inmates at the facility presently. “Last year we sat at almost 200%, so we have got here through various interventions and efforts at all levels. We are currently in contravention of Judge Saldanha’s ruling that population should not exceed 150%,” he explained. This is in relation with a judgment in 2017 based on prison overcrowding at Pollsmoor Prison, Cape Town.
The Deputy Minister commended the facility for receiving a clean Auditor-General report for the second year, but expressed that further interventions should be put in place to reduce overcrowding. “Overcrowding is a continuing problem, because when our facilities were made there was no vision for the long term. We are referring to strategies that will work for as long as 50 years and we talk about rehabilitation of offenders, but most centre’s do not have those facilities,” explained Holomisa.
He elaborated that the recent combination of Justice and Correctional Services into a single department would make operations easier as they work hand in glove. “A ruling cannot be made without any mechanisms put into place to ensure that overcrowding does not happen. Nobody wants overcrowding in any of their centres, so it is even more important that rehabilitation programmes succeed,” said Holomisa.
Korabie also demonstrated the Audio Visual Remand (AVR) centre of the prison where suspects can appear before the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s court while on Grootvlei grounds. “This helps a lot, because it cuts transporting costs and improves security issues,” he expressed. Holomisa said although the visit was not a formal inspection of Grootvlei, he was impressed with operations at the facility.