Earlier this year, ex-prisoner, journalist and host of the popular docu-series, Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons, Raphael Rowe spent a week behind bars at the Brandvlei Correctional Centre in the Western Cape to film a segment for Season 5 of the show.
Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons sees Rowe travel to different locations to explore the imprisonment process and prison culture of various societies.
The episode featuring Rowe’s stay in Brandvlei Correctional Centre – home to the notorious Number gangs – takes viewers through a tough week in a cell with eight convicted murderers. Rowe says he was genuinely frightened when he entered the prison cell with members of numbers gangs who later stole his shoes from him.
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Chatting to CapeTalk’s Sara-Jayne King, Rowe said inmates intimidated him during his stay and took him through an initiation process of sorts. “It took a few days to gain their trust, but eventually, some prisoners also shared insights about the prison culture at Brandvlei Correctional Centre.”
“I wasn’t there to sensationalise the Numbers, I wasn’t there to degrade these individuals. I was there to explore what it’s like as an individual and then to branch out into what the Numbers mean. Why can’t they break free of this cycle of destruction, etc?”
“They have their own language and their own way of indoctrinating a prisoner into their cell, which is probably why so many prisoners end up being part of a Number gang because unless they have the money they would have to be part of a number gang.”
“The number gangs have a notorious international reputation and so I was both fearful and excited to go and explore what this was about… to think that it still reverberates around prisoners and individuals in prisons is astonishing.”
Watch the trailer below and watch the full episode featuring Brandvlei Correctional Centre, on Netflix, right here.