At Fields Of Green For ALL our work at the Join The Queue Arrest Helpline always ensures we end up dealing with South African citizens who find themselves behind bars. Lots of them.
It is is by far the most depressing aspect of Dagga prohibition we deal with. Sick tactics and abuse at the hands of a demoralised, underpaid and unruly SA Police Services is rife, especially if you’re a Dagga user.
Most raids and premeditated busts occur on Thursdays, enabling the cops to commence a grueling few hours of psychological warfare before locking you in an overcrowded police holding cage for three nights with the empty promise of getting bail.
We could write a book recounting the harrowing stories we’ve sat through of young South African men and women describing their long weekend at the mercy of the SA Police Services for their relationship with the evil weed.
Sometimes it’s plain sailing. Often the whole police cell is full of Dagga users for the weekend, so a bond forms between the group. Other arrestees are not so lucky. They get put straight into an awaiting trail cage at a Correctional Services facility for lack of room at the local cop shop. This is getting close to experiencing what the inside of one of SA’s 240 overpopulated prisons feels like, and it’s an experience that can ultimately leave lives shattered. PTSD is very very real, post arrest. Ask us.
We know of one young cannabis users suicide after being in Cape Town’s notorious Pollsmoor Prison for 10 days ‘by mistake’. Two weeks after release, he hanged himself.
All the stories we hear have a common thread. Most people cannot believe how much contraband there is behind bars. If you have the money, anything, including Dagga can be obtained at a price. Anything.
Every so often, a headline pops up with another case of someone getting apprehended trying to smuggle Dagga into one of South Africa’s jails. It is mostly the general public, or even someones cat. Relatives and friends putting their body cavities to good use. Other times it is someone in uniform. Someone entrusted to keep the jails free of drugs – a police officer or prison guard gets caught and creates a flurry of tabloid headlines.
This week saw a flurry of Tweets from a bevvy of local newspapers picking up on the Polokwane Observer’s “polisieman wat dagga in tronk smokkel se turf sit” A Warrant Officer was spotted by a prison guard smuggling parcels of Dagga into the Polokwane Prison. A uniform snitched out a uniform. We are not sure how common this is, but it surprised us all in the FGA office. The prison in question has reportedly, in recent months, gone hardball on such activities with smokkeling visitors, but a ranking cop going down isn’t good.
Another tarnishing of the SA Police Service.
Does all the time and resources spent policing SA’s prisons for weed amount to anything?
Isn’t weed the least of anyone’s problems when violence and overcrowding is so endemic? Surely the more cannabis there is inside a jail the calmer it would be? We have first hand accounts from current and retired prison guards describing the relief the prison staff feel when a consignment of Dagga makes it through to the inside. The institution becomes perceptibly rustig as everyone in the pecking order gets blazed.
The other way of looking at the situation, the darker side, is if the government can’t keep Dagga out of its correctional facilities, how are they ever going to clean up the streets?
All of this begs the question, what happens to prisons when weed become legal? They could be ideal places to germinate the seed of cannabis cultivation. Win win. The inmates become self sufficient and the excess can be sold on to a government sales outlet or local dispensary. Come to think of it, a percentage of the tax on the sale of the crop could be diverted back to Correctional Services to do something about the mind blowing overcrowding and lack of medical facilities.
Tobacco is bartered openly, why not zol? Wouldn’t it make both the inmates and the warders lives a little less violent and a little more chilled? It seems to us there has been Dagga in South African prisons since there were prisons. Herman Charles Bosman’s seminal ‘Cold Stone Jug‘ makes numerous references to a prison Dagga culture nearly 100 years ago. We must seriously look at the role a good packet of tarries would do to morale for all those thousands, even tens of thousands of awaiting trial prisoners, their only crime being the fact that almost half of them don’t have the resources to post bail
We cover Dagga prisoners as a topic in our ‘Desired Outcomes’ legalisation discussion document, available on the FGA website for you to download.