Groenpunt not up to scratch: committee

Bloemfontein - The Groenpunt maximum security prison's infrastructure is not up to standard, correctional services portfolio committee chairman Vincent Smith said on Thursday.

“Our concern is that the facility is not suitable to hold dangerous individuals and the situation is exacerbated by the place being crowded.”

A police van and an emergency paramedic vehicle arrive at the entrance to Groenpunt Prison. Picture: Antoine de Ras. Credit: INLSA

The committee visited Groenpunt prison, outside Deneysville in the Free State, on Wednesday. Inmates rioted there last week.

Smith said while the prison’s capacity was 1100 inmates, it held 1500.

Earlier this month, Groenpunt prisoners refused to eat and then vandalised the facility, setting alight cells and offices. During the riot they attacked and injured some warders.

About 50 inmates were injured when police task teams entered the prison.

Prisoners had complained about the poor quality of food and about some prison officials.

Smith said there were concerns among committee members about services to inmates.

“There are about 1500 inmates. The hospital only has four nurses.”

He said during the committee’s visit 38 people were in the prison hospital, with only two nurses on duty.

“The staff-inmate ratio could lead to poor service delivery and that could also build up frustration.”

Smith said complaints at the prison included the quality of health care.

The committee found indications of low morale among staff.

“I think there was clearly signs of low morale, which I think relates to the stress they are working under,” said Smith.

He said this could lead to them not performing to the best of their abilities.

Smith nevertheless condemned the destruction of state facilities and infrastructure.

The police are still investigating the riot, and about 408 inmates have since been transferred to other prisons in an effort to calm the situation.

Two regional officials, area commissioner Mandla Mkhwanazi and prison head Eric Sekele, have been suspended pending the outcome of an internal probe into the riot. - Sapa