An intimate look inside Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison
Words: Bernadette McCabe, Compiled by Laura Jones
Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison, Tokai, Cape Town. After three months of proposals and meetings, finally the morning arrived to enter the personal cells in the Maximum B section. Above the main gate are written the words, ‘Seize the moment, touch someone, rehabilitate.’ A far cry from the truth inside.
That first day I could smell my own fear. When the main gate was unlocked, I entered with my camera, two lenses, pen, paper and my phone as a voice-recording device. Between two rows of leering eyes I walked, escorted by five wardens to meet the prisoners who’d agreed to share their stories. A smell of smoke, bodies and the thickness of stale air hit me.
After five days of visiting, the prison wardens escorting me had dwindled to just one. My presence was treated with respectful fascination – a visitor to look forward to – a welcome change in the emptiness of daily prison life.