Filth, disease, sex and violence mar women’s lives behind bars

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Most of the female inmates interviewed in Hard Times, a 2012 research report on women prisoners in Pollsmoor produced by the University of Cape Town’s gender, health and justice unit, had experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse growing up.

Basing their findings on interviews with 53 inmates, the authors note that “the correctional system becomes an extension of the abusive domestic context, where the features of domestic violence are recreated through prison controls and other behaviours… replicating a de facto domestic violence relationship.”

Dirty cells and substandard sanitation, especially in the awaiting trial section, also traumatise the women. “Toilets and showers were incredibly dirty, always blocked,” Melanie remembers.

In the latest piece by senior WJP journalist Ruth Hopkins, female inmates from Cape Town’s notorious Pollsmoor prison detail their experiences behind bars. From appalling living conditions and delayed access to healthcare services to sexual abuse and prohibitive regulations separating them from their children, female inmates endure much trauma.

Download the PDF of Ruth’s article as it appeared in the print edition of this week’s Mail and Guardian here

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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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