510 Groenpunt prisoners relocated

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iol news 08 jan SA st prison fire pic Groen Punt1 INLSA A police van and an emergency paramedic vehicle arrive at the entrance to Groenpunt Prison. Picture: Antoine de Ras

Free State - Around 510 inmates from Groenpunt prison will be moved to other correctional service centres, an official said on Thursday.

Around 350 of them had been moved so far and more would be transported to the different facilities on Friday, Free State deputy regional correctional services commissioner Grace Molatedi said.

All those who were relocated were serving maximum sentences.

“They are being accommodated at prisons in the North West, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal,” she said.

The move came after prisoners went on the rampage on Monday. They vandalised and torched cells and the facility's offices. Four warders and around 50 inmates were injured in the unrest.

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.

Some of the prisoners' files were damaged in the blaze, which could result in a delay in some of them being released.

Molatedi said the prisons who took the Groenpunt inmates in would not be negatively affected.

“We have communicated with the different facilities and made sure that there won't be any overcrowding because of this.”

The prisoners would be brought back to Groenpunt once the damaged cells had been repaired.

Earlier, the Inkatha Freedom Party said overcrowding had played a role in the unrest. The party's correctional services spokesman Velaphi Ndlovu said Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele should ask for more money to build more prisons.

Ndebele condemned the prisoners' behaviour and said it would not be tolerated.

“Whilst the department of correctional services is fully committed to the humane treatment of every detainee, acts of riots by inmates at correctional centres are not acceptable and will be dealt with firmly.”

Ndebele said rehabilitation of offenders, and secure, safe and orderly custody were two sides of the same coin.

“The balance between security, control and justice is paramount,” he said. - Sapa



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