List Of Maximum Prisons In South Africa (2024)

Crime is a disease, and the prison is the quarantine centre or what we can liken to a hospital where crime can be managed or cured for good before it spreads into every facet of the community. Maximum Security Prisons are correctional facilities where the most dangerous hardened criminals are kept. They are considered a threat to the general public, and they could commit more significant crimes if allowed to remain in society.

The list of Maximum Prisons in South Africa is made up of Pretoria Central Prison, Maximum Security Prison, Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison, the Mangaung Prison, Helderstroom Prison, Leeukop Prison, Kokstad Prison, Westville Prison, Grootvlei Prison, Modderbee Prison, Boksburg Prison, Johannesburg Prison, Brandvlei Correctional Center, and Matatshe Prison. 

Maximum Prisons In South Africa

List of Maximum Prisons in South Africa

1. Pretoria Central Prison

In 2013, President Jacob Zuma renamed the Pretoria Central prison to Kgosi Mampuru II Management Area and sometimes it is referred to as the Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Services. The Pretoria Central prison is large in Pretoria in Tshwane, South Africa, and it consists of six correctional centres, which include a women’s prison, Pretoria Local prison and the C Max, which is the maximum security division of the prison. The South African Department of Correctional Services manages the Pretoria Central Prison.

2. Maximum Security Prison, Robben Island 

The Maximum Security Prison, located on Robben Island, Cape Town, is the legendary prison where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma have also served in this prison, and they have all been Presidents of South Africa. The prison is inactive now, and it has become a South African National Heritage Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is being maintained well now.

3. Pollsmoor Prison

It is officially known as the Pollsmoor Maximum Security prison, and it is situated in Tokai, Cape Town. It is a maximum security prison that holds some of the most dangerous criminals in South Africa. It was designed to hold 4,336 offenders and a staff strength of 1,278; however, it is currently overcrowded as it has over 7,000 inmates. The prison comprises five prisons, namely the Admission Center, Medium A Prison, Medium B Prison, Medium C Prison and the Female Prison. The activities of gangs riddle the prison, and it is speculated to be entirely run by gangs; however, the prison is still managed by the Department of Correctional Services in South Africa.

4. The Mangaung Prison

The Mangaung Prison is a privately managed prison by G4S as part of a consortium located in Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa. The Department of Correctional Services of South Africa signed a 25-year contract with the consortium in 2000. The prison was designed to hold 3,000 inmates, but the current number of inmates it currently has is unspecified.

5. Helderstroom Prison

The Helderstroom prison is a maximum security facility located 120 kilometres from Cape Town. Reports reveal that living conditions in prison are harsh, and most inmates commit suicide because of the brutality that they go through in the facility. Helderstroom prison is one of the prisons well known for violent attacks on both inmates and officers of the law. The prison is well-known for its violent initiation rites carried out by high-ranking inmates, and the tales of torture are not news at the facility.

6. Leeuwkop Prison

The Leeuwkop prison is a Maximum security prison located at Bryanston, 2191, South Africa. It is a special Maximum security prison for hardened criminals who are considered a threat to themselves and other inmates. In this prison, inmates are kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, and guards use specialised equipment, such as electric shields, to move them around.

7. Kokstad Prison

Also known as eBongweni C-Max Prison, Kokstad prison is the highest maximum security in South Africa, located in Kwa Zulu Natal. The prison was designed to hold the most dangerous set of criminals that society cannot afford to have walking freely in the country. Wardens are positioned at every corner of this prison, along with ten electronically operated doors with CCTVs mounted on them. The prison also has steel doors that an individual must go through it holds to enter or exit the facility. With all of these security features, one would think that the facility is meant to keep terrorists.

8. Westville Prison 

Westville prison is a maximum security prison located on the outskirts of Westville, Durban. It is one of the biggest prisons in South Africa and the only prison in Durban. The prison holds over 40,000 inmates, and it is located on the southern edge of Westville.

9. Grootvlei Prison

Grootvlei prison is also one of the most precarious prisons in South Africa, and it is located just southwest of Bloemfontein, South Africa. This prison covers a land mass of about 3 kilometres and holds one of the most violent and notorious gang-related criminals caught. 

A surprise visit to the prison revealed inmates possessing dangerous items such as daggers. Investigations revealed that those items were smuggled in with the knowledge and cooperation of some corrupt officials within the correctional officers.

10. Modderbee Prison 

Modderbee prison is a maximum security correctional facility located at Modderfontein, Benoni. The prison has become notorious as riots have been reported in the facility. There has also been a recent report of a breakout where many inmates escaped, and some inmates were injured while a few died.

11. Johannesburg Prison 

The Johannesburg prison, alternatively called Sun City jail, is a maximum security correctional facility in Johannesburg. The facility holds 2,631 inmates, 567 of whom have been locked up for less than ten years. A recent unplanned raid of the facility revealed that many inmates were armed with knives and other dangerous and harmful weapons.

12. Brandlevi Correctional Center 

Brandlevi correctional centre, previously known as Brandlevi Prison, is a maximum and medium security correctional centre located on the bank of Brandlevi Dam, Western Cape. It contains a maximum security unit, a medium security unit and a juvenile unit. The facility also holds members of notorious gangs in South Africa, and it has a population of 3,020 inmates and resident staff, according to the prison census of 2001. The prison was featured in a Netflix series, Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons, in 2021.

13. Matatshe Prison

Matatshe prison is a maximum security correctional facility located near Thohoyandou, Limpopo. Many inmates in this prison are guilty of crimes, including house robbery, robbery with violence, attempted murder and a host of other serious crimes. The facility holds about 5,000 inmates. 



Maximum prisons are correctional facilities where the most dangerous and hardened criminals are held as they are considered a threat to the peace and well-being of sane people. They are also a threat to ordinary prison inmates when kept with them. The Department of correctional services in South Africa manages all correctional facilities in South Africa.

The list of Maximum prisons in South Africa has been lightly reviewed in this piece. It includes the facility where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years which is inactive now and has become a national and world heritage site. Which of these maximum prisons do you know or have had the privilege to visit? I would love to know, so please tell me in the comment section. 



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