Most of the female inmates interviewed in Hard Times, a 2012 research report on women prisoners in Pollsmoor produced by the University of Cape Towns 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 Towns 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.
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