UK's G4S denies Mangaung prison abuse claims

2013-10-28 22:31

Johannesburg - British security group G4S denied that its workers had electrocuted and drugged prisoners at Mangaung prison, the maximum security facility it ran before the government stepped in to restore order earlier this month.

The Wits Justice Project said some prisoners were forcibly injected with anti-psychotic medication and subjected to electric shocks.

"We do not use any form of torture or shock treatment," a G4S spokesperson said on Monday.

She said the staff also did not have access to medication and they did not administer drugs: "All medical decisions for inmates are handled and addressed by independent certified medical staff."

The abuse allegations at Mangaung - the second-largest privately run prison in the world according to G4S - follow scandals at the British company such as failing to provide enough guards at the London 2012 Olympics and discrepancies in tagging prisoners in Britain.

Ruth Hopkins, an investigative journalist with the Wits Justice Project, said she had documented cases of beatings - including electro-shocking - involving about 30 inmates. She had also documented about 20 cases of forced injections of anti-psychotic drugs.

"A pattern that emerged throughout my investigation is that inmates, who were considered difficult or who were involved in some problem, they would take them to the single cells in the prison, strip them naked, pour water over them, put them on a metal bed frame and use these electroshock shields to shock them," she told Reuters.

The Wits Justice Project is part of the journalism department of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and investigates alleged cases of mistreatment and miscarriage of justice in South Africa's prisons and justice system.

In a formal statement reacting to the most recent allegations, Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele, promised an exhaustive investigation.

"As the department of correctional services (DCS), we view these allegations, of forcibly injecting offenders with antipsychotic medication and using electroshocks to subdue and control them, in a very serious light," he said.

"We will leave no stone unturned in this investigation, in order to ensure that those implicated in such inhumane acts face the consequences of their actions."

‘Lost effective control’

The allegations came after the department of correctional services took over the facility on 9 October because the private security firm "lost effective control" of the 3 000-inmate establishment, a senior prisons official said on Monday.

James Smalberger, chief deputy commissioner of incarceration and corrections, said safety and security issues at the prison were under scrutiny well before the most recent allegations.

"There were assaults, there was labour unrest, there were hostage situations, that were a clear indication that there was not effective control," Smalberger told Reuters.

All of these issues, in addition to the latest allegations made by the Wits group, were now the subject of an ongoing official investigation into the management of the Mangaung Private Correctional Centre, which had been run by G4S, the world's biggest security firm, since 2001.

"When you have a contract, there are requirements that you must comply with ... if there are assaults, obviously it becomes a breach of contract," said Smalberger.

Smalberger did not say his department had confirmed the mistreatment allegations made by the Wits group.

The department was looking into them as part of its overall investigation into the G4S management of the prison.

The problems at the facility were exacerbated when G4S dismissed more than 300 of its workers after a labour dispute.

The company said on Monday that it asked the department of correctional services for assistance to manage the prison, and it decided step in and to manage the prison on an interim basis.

"We are very happy to have their help," the spokesperson said.

G4S head of operations in Africa, Andy Baker, told BBC radio on Monday that he expects G4S to be given back control of the prison in the near future.

"If we are presented with evidential support of some of the statements that are being made we will look at it comprehensively," he said.

"It's difficult in an environment with so many people and so many moving parts to categorically state that there has never been somebody stepping over the line. To my knowledge there has never been an abuse of this type of nature."

Mangaung was only one of two prisons, out of the 243 correctional facilities in South Africa, that were privately run, Smalberger said.

The South African government had decided in 2010 not to pursue or further expand a policy of public/private partnerships in the running of prisons.

  • Fikile Hugo - 2013-10-29 00:38


  • Fikile Hugo - 2013-10-29 00:49


  • John Tex - 2013-10-29 02:17

    G 4 security you should run our government you doing a good job they in prison for a reason good job

      Amanda Barkhuizen - 2013-10-29 08:34

      John well said.....

  • Mark Russell - 2013-10-29 04:31

    I must admit that it is kind of difficult to feel any sympathy for the prisoners at all when I see what crime is doing to our country. Abuse of power is also rampant. We should definitely have prisons for non violent offenders and then real hell holes for violent criminals like rapists and murderers. The cost of keeping the violent offenders in soft prisons is huge.

  • Vernon Brown - 2013-10-29 05:55

    This is a prison housing criminals who have committed violent crimes. You cant maintain control by being nice. No human rights for sub-humans I say! Btw, wait until the spotlight shifts to prisons run by Dept of Correctional Services then see what a mess those are in.

  • fargone - 2013-10-29 06:08

    What I find quite ironic is that there will be an exhaustive investigation into the use of "shock treatment" and shall we say abuse of "medication" , but in the meanwhile prisons host gang rapes and regular drug use by inmates, but these practices seem to go unoticed by everyone except the victims.

  • glansvdw - 2013-10-29 06:16

    From a human rights perspective it is shocking, excuse the pun... But as I have personally encountered attempted muggings, know numerous family members being severely affected by brutal unnecessary crimes, like rape and murder, it is hard to feel sorry for most criminals... Maybe they should even up the voltage for some

  • nicholus.nakanyane - 2013-10-29 06:25

    Why dont i believe this wits justice something?

      Vernon Brown - 2013-10-29 06:49

      coz u think the literal translation for this organisation is "Justice for Whites" Wits = Wit Ou's :)

  • Richard Scully - 2013-10-29 07:21

    "Before the government stepped in to restore order"....I don't believe it

      fargone - 2013-10-29 08:42

      Of course they restored order, they liaised with Eskom to provide the power and raised the voltage, same with the drug doses, same story negotiated with the Nigerians and upped the dose! Word is that the traffic in and out the prison is so bad that they are going to put in e-tolls.

  • Emma Sanderson - 2013-10-29 07:29

    It is very challenging to care how criminals are treated however if we mistreat criminals as per this article and release them into society - we creating an even greater threat. Personally, I think all people guilty of murder, rape, child abuse etc. should be left in jail to rot and should not be released on parole or govt pardon. Too many of these people simply go on to terrorise society again once released and the police just have to catch them all over again. You can not rehabilitate a rapist or sex offender. Fact! Most alarming to me when watching this feature on Carte Blanche the other night, was how utterly clueless the person in charge was (didn't catch her name) She is so incompetent that she doesn't know how incompetent she is. That is why this country - govt is such a mess. People not doing their jobs because they either don't know better or don't care. You tell me which. Most would not hold a job in the private sector because there if you don't perform, you are out. Personally I think that those offenders guilty of lesser crimes and not considered a threat to society should be used as labour, they must pay back their debt to society. All prisons should be mostly self-sustaining.

      Sam Nujoma - 2013-10-29 08:10

      Her final comment in the interview was "no comment" but it should have been "no clue" If we allow or condone the mistreatment of the convicted criminals we become criminals ourselves I know Andy Baker - he hops from one job to another after stuffing up the culture of the organization and raping it for millions. He should also be sent to one of these prisons.

      Amanda Barkhuizen - 2013-10-29 08:29

      Perfectly said. They don't know how to do the job.

  • Nella Kruil - 2013-10-29 08:13

    I laughed when this came on...why even bother giving it any investigation. Aaaaw, lets feel sorry the rapists, child abusers,murders etc in this prison. A bunch of BS...leave them to rot & given no second thought. YEAH G4S! :o)

  • Thoka Mphoka - 2013-10-29 08:51

    sharks get them f#kd as well. its apain that they inflicted on other human beings. thats still 5 star hotel compared to other prisons around the world

  • Stanely Mabunda - 2013-10-29 08:57

    job well done G4 those those cockroaches deserve infact add more volts to your devices

  • Nella Kruil - 2013-10-29 09:01

    Wrt the shock treatment, first song thought of...Gloria Estephan... turn it up, turn it up, turn it up(right now)!!

  • goyougoodthing - 2013-10-29 09:16

    I'm not sure I see the issue. Prisoners should be beaten, daily, especially this lot. They have shown now regard for others' rights and personal possessions. Prison should be a punishment not a holiday camp. Ruth Hopkins and Wits Justice can go and play NEOLIB with the prisoners if they wish.

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