Posted by: hazelmeda | October 18, 2012

In-depth 18 October 2012

I was relieved and delighted to get a comment from the Department of Correctional Services yesterday. The Director of Communication, Mr Koos Gerber and one of the staff Ms Matshidiso Mapole, were very helpful. I have added the comments from the statement Mr Gerber sent me to my article and I reworked several aspects of my piece. I am waiting for feedback from my mentors.

In the meantime, I will finalise my choice of photos to go with my audio piece and with the article, and then work on the reflective essay.

Posted by: hazelmeda | October 17, 2012

In-depth 17 October 2012

I almost want to throw a party because I finally got a response from DCS. They said various managers were being consulted to answer my questions, making me feel very important!
I reworked my feature, re-doing the nutgraph, making the paragraphs longer, and putting in the DCS comments, and tweaking a few other things, as advised. My heart is bleeding because I had to cut out my NICRO social worker and social anthropologist and two psychologists who had graciously agreed to help me.
Posted by: hazelmeda | October 16, 2012

In-depth 16 October 2012

Although I have still not fully recovered from the bug I got and haven’t been sleeping properly, I must summon up the energy to make a strong final push as far as my project is concerned. I am going to edit my article today. The DCS comment didn’t come through. The media liaison officer says the manager who was supposed to answer my questions was out of the office yesteday. I have sent a message to the Director of Internal Communication, whose address I was given by one of my mentors yesterday.

Posted by: hazelmeda | October 16, 2012

In-depth 15 October 2012

Still awaiting the comment from Correctional Services. I had been told to expect the written response before start of business on Monday, but still nothing. I followed up with a phone call and was told to expect the response later today.

Got more feedback from my mentors. Still some work to do, so I will get onto that.

I made a radio package for my multimedia element which I am quite proud of. Dinesh says I should put photos on the page with it. I identified those photos this afternoon.

Posted by: hazelmeda | October 12, 2012

In-depth 12 October 2012

I am extremely frustrated. I am not succeeding at all in getting a comment from Correctional Services.

I have tried so many numbers which just go unanswered: the ministry, the minister’s spokesperson Logan Maistry. I managed to get the deputy minister’s spokesman, Advocate Muofhe, yesterday abut he said he was busy and asked me to email the questions, which I did/ He acknowledged receipt and said he will get back to me. I hope that happens. I tried to phone all the numbers I have for him again today, but I didn’t get any answer. I feel like I am at a dead end, because I really need this comment.

I have also tried to contact James Selfe, the DA’s shadow minister for correctional services, but all the DA numbers I tried don’t get answered either. I have sent emails to the DA trying to get more contact details to try, but no response.

My other frustration is that the statistics application on the correctional services website doesn’t work.

What is one to do?

Posted by: hazelmeda | October 12, 2012

In-depth 11 October 2012

I got some feedback from my mentors about restructuring my essay and am now trying to do that.

I managed to speak to a prison psychologist who used to work at Pollsmoor and she was effusive but not very focused in terms of what I needed for my project. But she did give me some helpful comments about the no-contact visit policy pertaining to remand detainees. She was very kind and interesting to listen to and displayed real passion for her subject. She still counsels parolees and has written some articles as well. Dr Sandy Hoffman of Cape Town.

I also spoke to Dr Gillian Eagle, head of psychology here at Wits, who gave me her thoughts on family ties and preventing recidivism.


Posted by: hazelmeda | October 9, 2012

In-depth 9 October 2012

I didn’t get far today. I tried to call the daughter of the inmate we visited at Sun City on Saturday. Both of her numbers were just ringing, as were the numbers of the Correctional Services Social Workers I tried to phone and the Deputy Head of Prison at Sun City. The Head of Prison said he is not allowed to talk to anyone and that one has to apply for written permission from the area commissioner who is away for one week.

Tomorrow I have an interview with a Wits academic who has apparently done some work with prisoners and I am awaiting email  responses from a Wits psychologist who very kindly agreed to assist me. She said she doesn’t have time this week to meet with me, but she will email her thoughts.

Posted by: hazelmeda | October 9, 2012

In-depth 8 October 2012

I was very sick so I just stayed at home and wrote my draft. I know that I will have a lot to do in terms of re-working it, but at least I have something down on paper.

Posted by: hazelmeda | October 9, 2012

In-depth 6 October 2012

I was very scared about my first visit to a prison. I am glad that I got the opportunity to go with my classmate Zinhle, although she turned out to be more scared than I was!

I was quite surprised by the poor state of the visitors’ centre outside the prison. The waiting room is far too small for the number of visitors who come. People who can’t fit in there have to sit on some battered metal benches outside. 

We had to wait around quite a lot and I was imagining the frustration of the family members who wait for over 2 hours only to speak to the inmate for 20 minutes, as we eventually did.

We went through 3 pat-downs and security checks. It’s quite intimidating even if you know that you have no contraband on you.

I was interested to learn that food from outside the prison is prohibited. Families can only bring in toiletries and I saw people carry Vaseline, soap, deodorant, toilet paper, toothpaste and even a pair of pink fluffy slippers (I overheard an officer saying that slippers are not allowed and I felt bad for the family member who had bought them). People can buy food for the prisoners at the very expensive tuckshop just outside the enclosure where the visit takes place. We bought a few not-so-fresh fruits for R18 and a tiny packet of chips for R11, for example. One very popular item at the tuckshop was atchaar, to add flavour to the prison food. People also bought cases of softdrinks and cigarettes.

It was really sad to see the inmates caged in an enclosure, waiting for their visitors. The place was very hot and crowded and we were all squashed on benches, visitors and prisoners facing each other and straining to hear above the din caused by all the other conversations around us.

I was very moved seeing all the families reconnecting. There was a father, a big burly man, who kept kissing his son’s head. Then there were all the lovers – that was a little embarrassing, but I suppose the prisoners are starved of affection.

Posted by: hazelmeda | October 5, 2012

In-depth 5 October 2012

After listening to the interviews I have got so far, I have an idea of further questions to ask the family I am writing about as my case study. I will be going back to Soweto today, to interview the wife of the former offender. I hope their daughter will be there as well. She saw him in Bloemfontein prison when she was seven years old but didn’t see him again until his release when she was 14. Incredible.

I hope that we will be able to communicate effectively, so that I can get some depth in terms of the answers the family will give me. With the other interviews I conducted at the Magistrate’s Court on Fox Street on Monday, I realised that language was a barrier and I couldn’t get beyond basic answers.

I also hope to gather more visual material today- photos. To be honest, this is the aspect of the project which makes me nervous, because it’s not my strong point. I told Joanne and Ruth H that I want to do a radio piece instead, but I will try to get visuals and see what I can come up with.

I am meeting with my mentor, Fred, in 30 minutes’ time and I’m hoping that I will have a better sense of direction after that meeting. I think it’s important for me to start writing something tonight, just to get over that psychological barrier!

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