Third inmate dies in prison unrest

2013-01-19 14:23

Three prisoners were killed and 65 were injured following gang-related unrest at the St Albans prison in Port Elizabeth, officials said.

Correctional services regional commissioner, Nkosinathi Breakfast, said two of the inmates died after the unrest yesterday while the third died in hospital this morning.

“What we understand is that members of the 28s gang were involved in a fight and they were also assaulting some awaiting trial prisoners,” said Breakfast.

“The gang members were just hitting everybody randomly in the cell.”

The 28s are a notoriously powerful prison gang.

The fight broke out in six cells at around 2:15pm yesterday in a part of the facility that holds around 2 085 prisoners who are still awaiting trial.

“We took 17 injured prisoners to public hospitals. One of them died, five were discharged and returned to the prisons and 11 are still in hospital,” he said.

This afternoon, Breakfast said the situation was calm at the prison. No extra officers had been deployed to the facility.

He said gang fights and inmate rivalry was an issue they were having difficulty in controlling.

“It is something that is beyond our control but what we can do is try by all means to remove dangerous objects which could be used in these sort of attacks,” he said.

This unrest comes just days after inmates at the Groenpunt prison in the Free State went on the rampage and torched their cells and the facilities offices.

Four warders and around 50 maximum sentence inmates were injured in the January 7 incident.

SABC radio news reported that some of the prisoners had cellphones and called a local radio station to complain about the quality of food, and about some of the warders.

They also wanted a unit head fired.

The Inkatha Freedom Party said the incident reflected the problem of overcrowding in prisons across the country.

Today, the Congress of the People said the department of correctional services was sitting on a ticking time-bomb.

Cope MP Dennis Bloom said he believed that overcrowding and staff shortages played a role in both the Groenpunt and St Albans unrest.

“If the government does not immediately address this problem, more prisoners and prison warders are going to die and government must then take full responsibility for all these deaths,” he said.

Meanwhile, Correctional Services Minister Sbu Ndebele spoke out after the Groenpunt unrest and said prison riots would not be tolerated.

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