South Africa is known to host some of the most notorious gangs in the world; from the Numbers Gang in Cape Town to the Foster Gang in Johannesburg…

With crime at an all time high in South Africa, we explore correctional facilities that were created to institutionalise these criminals.

After prisoners attacked correctional service officials with a lock, their union said it was an attack waiting to happen. Picture: Steve Lawrence/Independent Media

Here are 9 of the most notorious prisons in South Africa:

9. Goodwood Correctional Center- Cape Town

The main purpose of the correctional center was to accommodate awaiting trial detainees, but due to overcrowding in prisons such as Pollsmoor, Helderstroom etc. many of the inmates had to be moved to make space for the more “dangerous” inmates.

Goodwood Prison is known to being one of the Centres of Excellence’, for “saving” the prisoners by running various programs and projects such as the Sexual Offenders Programs, Orientation Programs, Life Skills Programs and AA Programs.

But, due to the high crime rate in Cape Town alone; Goodwood Correctional Center has become home to many high risk inmates as well as overcrowding of inmates makes for a very dangerous environment, with petty criminals being housed in the same cells as high risk inmates.

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8. Boksburg Correctional Centre- Johannesburg

The conditions at Boksburg is far from great but at least they don’t deal with overcrowding.

Some of the main issues at Boksburg prison according to GroundUP includes:

Unhygienic preparation of food by inmates with no training in this field, which is affecting the health of those with medical conditions.

Shortage of vital foods and nutrients due to “poor planning and corruption”.

Sick inmates being given expired medication.

Inmates being given medicines marked for other prisoners.

Medicines prescribed by prison doctors are being delivered weeks late..

Untrained and unqualified inmates being used as pharmacy assistants.

7. Drakenstein Medium B Prison- Paarl

Formerly known as Victor Verster Prison also known as Nelson Mandela’s last “prison home”.

It’s a “working prison” situated in Paarl. Even though it’s surrounded by mountains and vineyards; the prison is rife with violence and it detains some of the most dangerous gang members in the Cape.

More notably the Numbers Gang (one of Cape Town’s most dangerous gangs) actually initiated an attack according to Cape Talk, where nine officials were wounded and five of them seriously injured.

This was all part of an initiation rite that all potential gang members have to go through in order to get their *nomer (The number ranking a gang member would receive to determine their status).




6. Leeuwkop Max C Prison- Pretoria

The division is specifically designed for violent and disruptive prisoners who have been classified as dangerous in terms of the South African Criminal Procedure Act.

Prisoners are kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours of each day out and specialised equipment, such as electric shields, are used by the prison guards.

The prison consists of two rows of fifty cells each.

5. Helderstroom Prison- Caledon

Known for intense initiation by higher ranking inmates and tales of torture; Helderstroom Prison is known for it’s violent attacks on not just prison officials but prisoners themselves.

Violent situations within the prison force many inmates to eventually commit suicide.

Caryn Dolley reported that two inmates at Helderstroom Prison in Caledon, who were held in solitary confinement, committed suicide within three months of each other just last month.

4. Leeuhof Prison- Gauteng

Inmate and fraud accused Eugene Viljoen; revealed the dark and horrendous secrets of the Leeuhof Prison in a string of smses sent out to City Press in 2014 after he got cellphones smuggled in for himself.

The smses revealed the corruption that takes place in this prison. Also how he and his cellmates managed to smuggle in large quantities of drugs to the prison.

He reveals the rapes, initiations, drug use and warden bribery that regularly took place within the prison.

3. Grootvlei Prison- Bloemfontein

The same issues of corruption happening in prisons around SA are evident as well in this prison as stated by former prisoner, Gayton McKenzie.

He speaks of drugs and alcohol distribution by the wardens to inmates and in 2007 a film has been produced to showcase how corrupt the prison system is.

McKenzie says, “The film will sketch how I led one of the biggest prison exposés in the world. I caught warders on film supplying drugs and alcohol to inmates, pimping young inmates to older prisoners, and even their giving prisoners a loaded pistol to use in an escape.”

“I decided to expose their filthy dealings after witnessing the brutal rape of a 14-year-old white prisoner. That’s when I decided I had enough of the world of crime and corruption.”

2. eBongweni C-Max Prison- KwaZulu Natal

Known as the highest maximum security prison in South Africa; with wardens on every corner, steel doors, 10 electronically and CCTV monitored doors to go through before you enter or exit the prison; it makes it near impossible for someone to escape; except one.

In 2013 Ananias Mathe tried to escape the maximum security facility.

And the most notorious of them all…

1. Pollsmoor Prison- Cape Town

Known as one of the most dangerous prisons in the world; with the Numbers Gang basically running the prison and diseases spreading easily due to overcrowding, is just one of the many problems this prison faces…