British company accused of abusing South African prisoners


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Gianluigi Guercia

A British security company, G4S, is under investigation for mismanagement of a maximum security prison near Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Prisoners and wardens told investigative journalists from the Wits Justice Project at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg that the company encouraged use of forced injections and electric shock treatment to control inmates at the Mangaung Correctional Center. The prison is the second-largest privately-operated jail in the world.

A former G4S employee told BBC News that he and his colleagues shocked inmates with electric shields because they were outnumbered. "We use them sometimes because we are understaffed and we are expected to bring out the results and also to install fear on the inmates," he said. "We went overboard, so to say: sometimes you go and shock them individually in a segregation unit just to make sure they could be afraid of us."

The former employee also said that it was “common practice” for guards to shock naked prisoners in order to elicit confessions.

G4S denies the allegations. “We do not use any form of torture or shock treatment," a G4S spokeswoman said on Monday.

"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," South Africa's Correctional Services Minister, Sibusiso Ndebele, 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."

The South African government took over operations of the prison earlier this month, claiming that G4S had “lost effective control over the prison” following a series of assaults and hostage takings.