Battle for prisoners’ health
MEDICAL staff shortages, congested waiting lists, unattended complaints and no explanations of medicines given.
This is the picture painted by three ex-inmates who were released on parole from a prison in Kimberley.
One of the parolees, Solomon Maseko said: “Say you have flu and are detained in the older centres. You go to the official to lay a complaint so that you can be checked by a nurse to get treatment, but that complaint is sometimes not taken forward to the (prison’s) health centre.
“And because of the congestion of complaints, you become like a nuisance to an official. Some of them have the mentality that you deserve to die in there.”
Maseko, 39, said he had witnessed numerous “inhumane” actions against prisoners.
Luyanda Dolwana, 31, who was convicted and imprisoned in the city for seven-and-a-half years, recalled a time he a had an excruciating toothache.
“I had to wait a month to get seen by a doctor,” he said.
Another of the parolees, Andrew Chokochela, said: “Health is one of the biggest things we need to pay attention to as a country. We have overcrowding in prisons and no proper air ventilation.
“In Kimberly, there were 10 of us in a cell whereas in Grootvlei (in Bloemfontein) there was 50 to 60 in a cell.”
The ex-inmates, through NGO Right To Care’s correctional services’ support department, have become peer educators – not just in prisons, but in their communities too.
The organisation supports 89 Department of Correctional Services primary health care centres and seven pharmacies between KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and the Northern Cape.
According to recent reports, at the end of March last year, South Africa’s prisons only had 119 134 beds available for its 161 984 inmates.
All three inmates said they were grateful for their parole and having a second chance at life, but were still battling with the stigma attached to being ex-offenders and assimilating back into their communities.
Solomon Maseko, 39, a former prison inmate, speaks about the challenges of accessing health-care services in prisons and how NGO Right to Care helped him.