Do not think a little hooliganism will land you in a comfy cell where you will sleep it off, have a scrumptious breakfast then take a taxi to the beach the next morning.
Drinking in public, or even dropping your candy wrapper, will get you arrested and thrown into a very dark dirty cell were you WILL be raped and assaulted by as many people as there may be in your communal cell, and for as many hours are you are there.
Here some trivial drunken mischief will scar you for life and almost guarantee you an Aids death sentence. Forget about your basic human rights, your one telephone call or any assistance from warders or police when you scream for help.
The condom that is issued to you on your arrival at the cells is not for your pleasure, but for one of the 30 men that will rape you. I would strongly advise that you consider where, and how much you drink as this could alter your life forever.
Man cries as he tells of rape
A man, 52, cried in the Pretoria High Court while he told how inmates in a police cell raped him.
The man, a diabetic from Primrose, Germiston, is suing the Minister of Safety and Security and the Minister of Justice for R4.3m in damages.
He claims he was twice unlawfully arrested and that after the second arrest, he was raped in police cells.
He testified how he was arrested on February 28 at the magistrate's court in Witbank when he wanted to fetch a copy of his charge sheet.
Singing and dancing
According to him, he was kept in a cell along with 30 fellow prisoners in the holding cells at the Witbank police station.
He told how he was carried, naked, around the cell by four men while the rest sang and danced. The court had to be adjourned before the emotional man could continue testifying.
"The singing and foot stamping became louder," he said. He described how of the prisoners took one of the green mattresses in the cell, rolling it up lengthwise and put it in front of him. He was told to kneel down over the rolled up mattress.
"The intensity of the singing and dancing reached a climax". The men started raping him. "I must have lost consciousness then.When I came to, they were still busy".
They later stopped and ignored him for the rest of the two days that he was kept locked up with them in the same cell.
He was taken to court where bail was set for R1 000. But he could only call someone to bring him the money a day after his court appearance.
He also had to be taken to hospital as he had not been able to get his diabetic medicine while being in custody.
The man said he asked the doctor to admit him because he was scared of going back to the cell.
He did not tell the doctor or the police members what had happened to him. A friend paid his bail, the case against him was dropped and the money paid back.
How CT prison gang raped me'
A Western Cape prisoner has described in an affidavit lodged in the Cape High Court how he was suffocated with a wet towel, while he was being raped and beaten by a prison gang.
The testimony of the prisoner, a former property developer, was a key element in an urgent application to force the government to improve conditions in South Africa's heavily overcrowded jails.
The application, which was to have been heard on Wednesday, but was instead postponed by consent to October 13, was being brought by the prisoner, who had asked that his identity not be revealed for fear of reprisals, and the Prison Care and Support Network (PCSN), an NGO under the auspices of the Catholic Church.
Constitutional right to dignity
They were asking the court to rule that prison overcrowding was unlawful and a violation of the constitutional right to dignity and the right not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.
In his affidavit, the 37-year-old prisoner said that after being sentenced for cheque fraud and escaping, he was held in Cape Town's Goodwood prison, in a communal cell dominated by members of the 26s and 28s gangs.
The cell was meant to hold 20 inmates, but as many as 30 at a time were packed in.
He said he was often approached by gang members to join or perform tasks for them, and was threatened when he refused.
Warders threaten inmates with the 28s
He said: "The 28s were powerful and even the warders would often threaten inmates with the suggestion that if they should step out of line they would be placed in cells with the 28 gang to be raped."
Tensions between him and the gangsters increased after a disagreement about television channels in the cell, but prison staff refused his request for transfer to a single cell.
"On Thursday August 28 2004, I went to the toilet early in the morning about 2:30. While I was sitting on the toilet, I noticed that a member of the 28s came into the toilet briefly and then left.
"He was a gang member who had previously threatened me and I had already made complaints to the warders about him."
Raped inmate couldn't defend himself
He added: "Shortly afterwards, a group of 28s came into the toilet. Before I had the time to stand up from the toilet, a wet towel was wrapped around my head and I was pulled off the toilet with my pants still around my knees.
"I could not see or breathe properly because of the towel, and I fell onto the floor. I was then repeatedly kicked and beaten on the toilet floor. I could not defend myself and I tried desperately to breathe through the towel.
A shocking disgrace
Few readers will have much sympathy with the lot of a prisoner in crime-ridden South Africa and many may think that whatever they experience in prison is simply just desserts for their deeds.
It is, however, hard not to be shocked by the image we have on the front page of today’s paper which shows, what warders count, as 300 prisoners in a cell meant for 15 at Mthatha’s Medium B prison.
The prison is 400 percent overcrowded and the conditions that people are being kept in are horrendously inhumane.
Many of those in this cell are awaiting trial prisoners. They are people who have not been found guilty of any crime, yet according to staff at the prison, they may as well already have been given a death sentence. There is a 90 percent certainty of contracting HIV/Aids in these cells, say warders, so prevalent is the rape of prisoners by other prisoners. Other diseases are rife within these walls.
We have also seen in our images and video footage, individuals in these cells who are clearly not adults. There appear to be a number of juvenile prisoners held in these cells which would appear to be illegal. But even if you do not care about these aspects of this terrible overcrowding you may care about the security concerns that arise under such conditions.
Each prison warder is effectively overseeing hundreds of prisoners which in itself is a security risk.
It also makes the task of accounting for all prisoners at all times exceedingly difficult.
In one incident in August 2007, seven awaiting trial prisoners escaped from within the walls after sawing through prison bars. One of those to escape was Odwa “Oros” Sithole, 23, allegedly responsible for crimes including murder, armed robbery, cash-in-transit heists, car theft, escaping from lawful custody and possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition. He was later shot by police trying to re-arrest him.
Shortly after the mass breakout, Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour announced the suspension of several prison staff members.
The conditions in this prison clearly make any attempt at rehabilitation futile. Instead, we are assured of an endless cycle of crime in our community.
There is also the simple matter of our basic humanity. It is easy to say these conditions are simply what prisoners deserve but that does not say much about us if we consider ourselves to be a civilized community.
If our systems and institutions treat people like animals, should we be surprised that this is how they will behave – and how they might one day treat us?
There is no way around it, Mthatha Medium B is a shocking disgrace.
A warder’s plea for intervention at the severely overcrowded Mthatha Medium Prison was rejected by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
In a letter leaked to the Daily Dispatch, Eastern Cape SAHRC provincial manager Lufuno Mmbadi said they could not conduct an investigation into the conditions at the prison.
The Dispatch on Tuesday broke the story of the severe overcrowding at the jailhouse, the worst in the country and more than four times what the prison population should be.
In one picture warders said 300 men were crammed into a cell built for 15. The overcrowding has exposed the prison to possible outbreaks. Two have happened in the last two years.
The commission said in a letter to a Correctional Services employee that its involvement would be premature and that it was not in the position to investigate until all internal processes had been exhausted.
The Dispatch understands that the employee raised a number of matters with the SAHRC, among them the inhumane conditions for prisoners.
The employee also complained about the severity of the overcrowding and pointed out that the decaying infrastructure of the facility made life difficult not only for inmates but also for the prison warders.
On Tuesday Nkosinathi Breakfast, deputy regional commissioner for correctional services, responded to a list of questions sent last week by the Dispatch.
He said that the prison has been prioritised as a “high risk area” for its overcrowding and that a strategy has been developed which includes a regional management task team to deal with the excessive numbers.
The prison was designed to take 580 prisoners but is currently accommodating 2491 inmates. Of those in jail, 1598 are awaiting trial.
Jail rape: The sordid facts
Cape Town - Confusion and a lack of any clear policy to deal with the sexual interaction of prisoners made it difficult to prevent the rape of inmates in South Africa's prisons, parliament's correctional services portfolio committee heard on Tuesday.
Briefing the committee about gangs and sexual violence in the country's prisons, researchers from the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) said the department of correctional services' 2002 anti-rape strategy had not yet filtered down.
"The people on the ground have never ever heard of it," CSVR researcher Sasha Gear told MPs.
There was no support structure for prison staff or inmates, and rights and roles were not clearly defined.
While consensual sex between adult inmates in prison was constitutionally legal, the problem arose where force was used, which was often the case.
"Much of the sex that takes place in prison happens along gender lines.
"Depending on a person's role in the sex act, participants are identified in prison culture as men or women," said Gear.
Most of the sex was highly coercive, and blatant rape.
According to prison culture, anyone who had been "sexually penetrated in a power-defined interaction", was considered a woman, and it was then their job to provide men with sex.
"A 'marriage' begins with the act of rape (penetration), and the 'wife' is then the constant target of humiliation," she said. She added, however, that the term "homosexuality" was taboo among prisoners, especially those involved in "marriage relationships" where the role of each partner was clearly defined.
"Sex by mutual consent, where both parties take turns to be penetrated, is also a taboo because it breaks the rules of prison sex and is associated with homosexuality," she said.
Gear said an aggressive sexual nature was often carried into the outside world by prisoners on their release, leading to further acts of violence through warped perceptions of reality.
This was particularly true of young prisoners. Some warders take part in 'trade'
There was no clear policy regarding sexual assault.
This led to confusion of what was outlawed and what was not, she said. The situation was aggravated by warder involvement. Gear said some warders took part in the "trade" of prisoners for coercive sex and rape.
"A sense of resignation among officials to the fact of sexual abuse is reported, as well as fear for their own safety should they intervene," Gear said, noting that overcrowded prisons made the problem worse.
Committee chairman Dennis Bloem agreed the situation had to be investigated, and acted upon immediately.
Doctor confirms disease rife in prison
The full horror of the country’s most overcrowded prison can be revealed in this shocking photograph showing what warders say are 300 men crammed into a cell built for only 15.
A doctor has confirmed that disease is rife in the overcrowded cells of Mthatha Medium Prison.
Dr Bongiwe Mbuwako said HIV was prevalent among inmates at the prison when she worked there as a full-time doctor from 2006. She resigned two months ago.
“Yes, overcrowding can easily cause disease to spread. This can happen in cases where there is close contact with persons who have contagious illnesses,” Mbuwako said.
She said when inmates were brought in they were normally issued with condoms and encouraged to use them.
“We warn them that they might be sodomised inside the cells and advise them to always have condoms handy. I do not have a specific case of someone coming forward and saying they have been sodomised, but we know it happens,” Mbuwako said.
Warders confirmed that rape was endemic in the prison. This resulted in the spread of HIV/ Aids in the prison and outside its walls once inmates were released.
“If you spend even a single day in that prison, chances are more than 90 percent that you are going to be raped or sodomised.
“Jail is a hell of a place to be, especially Mthatha Medium,” said one warder.
Mbuwako said that as a result of the HIV prevalence among the population they established an anti-retroviral unit site that was opened in December last year and started operating in January.
Mbuwako said other diseases like tuberculosis and diabetes were also commonplace – most related to HIV.
All pictures in this post were taken at Polsmoor prison in South Africa, and published by the BBC as can be seen by this link.