There are currently 153 000 prisoners in South African jails, and this includes awaiting-trial detainees, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies. This is a serious overcrowding case for the country’s prisons capacity, which were built to house only 118 000.
People imprisoned in this kind of environment are increasingly vulnerable to stress, as well as abuse and harassment by warders and prison gangs, among others, and have too little time for entertainment and relaxation.
This is where radio intervenes, and demonstrates its ‘eternal’ power to entertain, educate and inform. And it is not always that prisoners get to experience live radio.
A radio team from the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)-owned station Ligwalagwala FM recently went to visit Middelburg Prison, bringing live radio into the premises of this correctional centre.
SABC said that the visit was in line with the NtjintjaGuluva (change gangster) Campaign. This campaign aims at discouraging criminal elements and activities among the youth, and provide a platform for offenders to have a dialogue with their victims.
More than 100 inmates assembled together on an open field to welcome the station, which showered with motivational talks.
One of the presenters, King Sisonke, an ex-convict who served a prison term at the same Middelburg Prison, had these encouraging words for the inmates: “It is not easy to live your life with a criminal record, it takes a while for the community to realise that you are a changed person.
“You need to accept yourself before the community can accept you.”
A female offender who was sentenced for the murder of her husband also had some encouraging words for females in abusive relationships, told the inmates: “I was convicted for the murder of my husband which happened because of the anger that had built up inside of me because he was very abusive.
“I now urge all women in abusive relationships to leave and never look back because I do not want them to end up like me.”
The visit was graced by the presence of Regional Commissioner of Correctional Services Tsetsane and Area Commissioner Mandla Gerald Sibanyoni.
Photo: The SABC radio station team with inmates