Leeuwkop Medium C Library visit

KYLA HERRMANNSEN

The Wits Justice Project recently went on a tour of the Leeuwkop Prison libraries. There are two libraries on-site – one situated in the Juvenile section and one situated in Medium C. For a report on the Juvenile prison library, read Palesa ‘Deejay’ Manaleng’s post here.

Medium C houses ‘lifers’ (those serving life sentences), inmates who have served enough of their sentence in the maximum facility to be transferred to a medium facility and those who are sentenced to less than ten years. Medium C is currently 126.1 % overcrowded.

The Medium C library is completely different to the Juvenile library. While the Juvenile library is a converted cell (so you walk head first into the old door-less toilet) the library in Medium C is airy and light. Instead of a toilet, a table-covered in up to date daily and weekly newspapers stands at the entrance. Unlike the empty dust-filled Juvenile library, this library is clean and full of inmates, scanning the shelves for a book to read. The walls on either end of the library are lined with small desks and computers where inmates sit and study. The computers are privately owned, provided by the families of the offenders to aid them in their studies. Unlike the Juvenile library, the library itself has two DCS supplied computers – one for keeping records and one that offenders can use to type out their notes and assignments on.

silence please

The Medium C library is staffed by offenders – one of whom is a qualified librarian and worked as a librarian ‘outside’ before being imprisoned. He is enthusiastic about literacy and is proud to tell us that he started a book club in Medium C. The book club takes place every two weeks and includes book reviews, poetry and public speaking. One of the library assistants is also involved in teaching English and literacy to fellow inmates.

Apart from reference books, an offender who works as a librarian revealed that romance novels are very popular. Inmates are allowed to take out three books, for the period of 7 days at a time, with the option to renew. Though we did spot a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica’s from 1989, the books appeared to be well mixed – with a good ratio between non-fiction reference books, novels and a much better supply of books in a range of South African local languages than the few we spotted in the Juvenile library.

leeuwkop library

The offenders who work in the library say that levels of illiteracy in Leeuwkop are very high. They said that they are in desperate need of more books of an entry-level nature that will assist those interested in learning to read. Hopefully the Minister of Correctional Services, Sibusiso Ndebele, will address this need in his recently launched Reading for Redemption programme.

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About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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