Commissioner rues private prison deal

Cape Town - A 25-year private-public partnership prison contract may have been a bad move, acting national correctional services commissioner Notsikelelo Jolingana said on Wednesday.

She told a Parliamentary committee in Cape Town that the government may have made a “bad decision with great intentions” when it approved the deal for privately run prisons

Mangaung Maximum Security Prison. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

According to her office, she said the state's intention was to build a model, new-generation correctional centre intended to enhance the rehabilitation of offenders.

The contract with G4S Africa to manage the Mangaung maximum security centre near Bloemfontein was to be a platform for testing the unit management model of prisons.

She said the contract consisted of two parts.

The infrastructure would be handed to the department of this year while the services agreement would continue for the duration of the contract.

Referring to riots and other problems at the Mangaung Correctional Centre last year, Jolingana said her department was considering future options.

One was to co-manage the prison to avoid a repeat of such trouble.

More than 300 employees at the Mangaung prison went on strike in August last year.

The prison, which houses nearly 2000 inmates, was run by G4S with a limited number of staff.

A riot broke out, staff members were stabbed, and inmates took a woman warder hostage for 13 hours. Claims of torture also surfaced later.

Jolingana said her department met G4S last Thursday and gave them 21 days to respond to the findings of the investigation into the violence.

She said her department's take-over of operations last year helped to stabilise the situation.