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Gangs of Pollsmoor and the Prison Subculture of Cape Town

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Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town is renowned for its unsanitary and overcrowded conditions as well as its deep-rooted gang culture. This article examines the various types of gangs operating within Pollsmoor Prison, their structures and origins, as well as how this culture impacts both the prison environment and South African society at large.

Origins of Gang Culture in Pollsmoor

Pollsmoor’s gang culture can be traced back to apartheid-era South Africa, when racial segregation and socioeconomic disparities caused criminal organizations to form within marginalized communities as a means of survival, protection, and earning an income. Their influence eventually reached prison walls as prison environments became breeding grounds for gang activity – existing ones gained power while new ones formed within them.

Pollsmoor’s Principal Gangs

Pollsmoor boasts several main crime groups.

Pollsmoor Prison is home to several notable gangs, the Numbers Gang consisting of 26s, 27s and 28s. Other influential gangs such as Americans and Hard Livings also have a significant presence within the prison.

The Numbers Gang

The oldest and longest-running gangs at Pollsmoor Prison are the Numbers Gangs – comprised of 26s, 27s and 28s. With roots dating back to the late 19th century, these members possess an intricate hierarchy as well as a stringent code of conduct.

The 26’s

These 26s are primarily focused on acquiring wealth and other resources both inside and outside prison. They have been known for smuggling contraband such as drugs, weapons and cell phones.

The 27’s

These are the Numbers Gang’s “law enforcers”, responsible for upholding order within the group. They enforce a code of conduct and punish those who breach it or disrespect their hierarchy.

The 28’s

these are the “warriors”, or Numbers Gangs’, who carry out violence for their gang. Protecting territory, fighting with rival gangs and carrying out “hits” – revenge attacks against certain targets are some examples.

The Americans

The Americans, a predominantly Cape Flats-based gang, formed in the 1980s. They are involved with drug trafficking and armed robbery and compete for territory and resources within Pollsmoor.

The Hard Livings

The Hard Livings are a notorious gang from Pollsmoor, originally from Cape Flats. Established in 1970, they have been involved in many criminal activities such as murder, drug dealing, kidnapping and more. They’re known for their brutality and have had an ongoing rivalry with Americans since then.

The Sexy Boys

Although smaller than other gangs in Pollsmoor, the Sexy Boys still exert significant power. They engage in criminal activities such as drug dealing and armed robbery, while being known for their extravagant lifestyles that sometimes clash with rival gangs over territory and resources.

Gang Recruitment and Initiation

Gangs in Pollsmoor actively search for new members. Often, they target young, vulnerable inmates inmates looking for protection and a sense of belonging. The recruitment process usually involves observation during which prospective members are assessed for loyalty, obedience and potential usefulness to the gang.

Though rituals for initiating a gang vary, they typically involve violence or criminal activities to demonstrate a recruit’s loyalty and commitment. These could include physical assaults against rival gang members or smuggling contraband into prison. Once initiated into the organization, members must abide by its code of conduct and obey their superiors’ orders.

Influence of Gang Culture on Prison Environment

Pollsmoor Prison’s gang culture has devastating effects on both its facility and inmates.

Violence and Intimidation

Pollsmoor has become a hotbed of gang-related violence. There are frequent stabbings, beatings, as well as murders. Not only does this impact those affected directly but it also creates an atmosphere that fosters fear and intimidation within prison populations – making it difficult for non-gang affiliated prisoners to maintain their safety and wellbeing.

Collaboration and Corruption

Gang influence extends even to prison staff, leading to corruption and instances of guards helping gang members communicate through smuggling contraband or taking bribes for favors. This corruption poses a threat to both prison system integrity and order.

Rehabiliting Obstacles

Pollsmoor’s gang culture poses a major barrier to rehabilitation. Gang-affiliated prisoners may not be able or unwilling to participate in vocational or educational programs, while non-gang affiliated inmates may face violence or intimidation if they attempt to access these resources. Furthermore, inmates are often exposed to drugs and other illegal activities while in prison – making it difficult for them to break the cycle of criminality and addiction.

Pollsmoor: Curing the Gang Culture

Pollsmoor Prison’s gang culture must be tackled through a multifaceted approach. Doing so will address the underlying causes and disrupt power dynamics.

Social Factors to Address

Addressing socioeconomic factors that cause gang formation such as poverty, unemployment, lack of educational opportunities and other social problems will help reduce their appeal both inside and outside prisons. By providing resources and support to marginalized communities we can reduce gang life’s allure while creating alternative paths towards success.

Rehabilitating Programs for Deaf Individuals

Rehabilitation programs in Pollsmoor must be improved. These initiatives provide education, vocational training and mental health support to promote self-sufficiency and personal development – which may reduce recidivism rates.

Communication and Disruption of Gang Hierarchies

Disrupting Pollsmoor gang hierarchy and communication networks can reduce their power and influence. This could include measures like isolating gang leaders and implementing strict monitoring of communications. Intelligence-led strategies may also be employed to prevent or predict gang-related activity.

Prison staff must receive training and accountability for their roles.

Fostering a culture of professionalism, accountability and responsibility within prison staff requires comprehensive training. This should include inmate management, gang awareness and rehabilitation strategies. By equipping staff members with knowledge and skills to address gang-related issues effectively, prisons can become safer places for rehabilitation to take place.


Pollsmoor Prison’s gang culture is intricate and deeply embedded, having significant repercussions for safety, well-being, and rehabilitation prospects. To effectively address this endemic problem, one must gain an understanding of the dynamics within each criminal gang within the prison as well as their underlying causes.

Gang hierarchy and communication, as well as improving rehabilitation programs, targeting socioeconomic variables, and strengthening prison staff accountability and training can all help reduce their influence and power in Pollsmoor Prison. We can transform Pollsmoor Prison into an environment which encourages rehabilitation, security, and successful reintegration by confronting gang culture head on.

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