G4S accused of mistreating prisoners
2013 05 29
By Ruth Hopkins | The Guardian
Confidential government report lists 62 inmates held in single cells for up to three years, with some denied medication
A South African prison run by the embattled British security firm G4S is illegally holding inmates in isolation for up to three years and denying them life-saving medication, according to a confidential South African government report.
The report lists 62 inmates who were detained in single cells for periods ranging from two weeks to three years, against prison rules. Two of them were not given essential TB and HIV medication during their solitary confinement, it says. A recent visit to the prison in Bloemfontein by the Wits Justice Project suggested that the practice was ongoing.
Inmate Ouba Mabalane told the project that he had been held in solitary confinement in Mangaung prison from 23 November 2006 to 7 November 2009, without access to television, radio or rehabilitation programmes. He was only allowed out his cell for one hour a day.
"The isolation drove me insane," said Mabalane, adding that he had tried to kill himself in 2009. "I didn’t like being alone all day." He said he had been held in a dark cell with sparse lighting and just a small window to let in some sunlight.
G4S is best known in the UK for bungling a contract to provide security at the London Olympics, forcing organisers to bring in the army at the last minute.
In South Africa, the isolation of inmates is an unpleasant echo of the country’s apartheid past, when political prisoners were regularly detained in single cells for years on end. The Pan Africanist Congress leader Robert Sobukwe, for example, was held in a solitary cell on Robben Island for nine years.
These days it is illegal to segregate prisoners as a punishment. The practice can be imposed under certain conditions, for example, if the prisoner is considered an escape risk or a threat to other inmates, or may be at risk of violence in a shared cell, but it must be reported to prison inspectors.
For the practice to be legal, the inmate has to be visited by a nurse, psychologist or a medical practitioner every day. According to the confidential report in 2009, the prison management ignored these stipulations.
Read the full article at: guardian.co.uk
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