If you were ever under the illusion that prisons were safe places where miscreants were sent to cool down, pay their dues to society for their transgressions, and come back magically transformed to law abiding meek and submissive citizens, think again. This week a groups of about 27 inmates of the Drakenstein prison, once the famous abode of our most celebrated inmate Nelson Mandela, stabbed and assaulted a total of 9 prison warders (also known as members of the correctional authority). Five of these warders are seriously injured, having suffered wounds to their head, neck and chest. In the melee 7 inmates (probably counted amongst those who were the perpetrators) are also injured and hospitalised.
This incident is a sharp reminder of the violent and somewhat brutal environment that prisons are. Not only for warders but probably more so for inmates. There are many- probably the majority, of inmates who are actually peaceful, non violent individuals. These inmates are terrified of the brutality around them and the risk of harm to themselves. Many eventually succumb to the violence themselves, as a only means of survival – to minimise the horror of physical and sexual assault and emotional trauma.
From reports it appears evident that these 27 inmates are apparently known members of the numbers gangs (the 26’s, 27’s, and 28’s). If this is factual, one should ask the question how is it considered a safe strategy to house so many gang members in one cell; and how on earth is it possible that such inmates were in possession of these dangerous weaponry such as knifes and other means of stabbing and assaulting.
Whatever the response, we will have to rethink the gang strategy in prisons, for the sake of the safety of both warders and inmates. No doubt these perpetrators will be charged, convicted and sentenced – but they are already serving the worse that our system can deliver – imprisonment…… and if they rule the roost within the prison centre then imprisonment as a sanction is hardly going to cause any consternation.
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