By Brett Adkins

A teenage inmate at St Albans Prison in Port Elizabeth has told of a horrifying four-hour gang rape ordeal by 10 prisoners in a cell while his screams for help were ignored.

An 18-year-old first-time offender was attacked and sexually assaulted in Unit D - the juvenile section of St Albans - by a group of gang member inmates two weeks ago, after which he was admitted to hospital to be treated for severe injuries and bleeding.

This latest incident comes after other sex attacks on prisoners at St Albans earlier this year which inmates have claimed are continuing unabated. The teenager is serving a two-year jail sentence for robbery after a conviction in June this year.

The young prisoner has now laid sexual assault charges against his assailants with the police and is also instituting a civil claim against Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour.

The claim is for R1-million if blood tests reveal that he has contracted HIV, and R500 000 if the tests are negative. He was attacked on Sunday two weeks ago after an argument broke out with other Unit D inmates wanting to "punish" him for watching TV in another cell.

The prisoners in the juvenile section of the jail range in age from 15 to 20. Once a prisoner is 21 he is transferred to the adult section.

There is also a strict territorial code among inmates in the five juvenile cells who include the "28s" prison gang, the "26s" gang and non-gang members, as to which cells they can enter.

His cellmates first kicked him and repeatedly beat him using a five-litre plastic container filled with sand that is usually used for exercising. He was then pinned across a bed and raped by members of the notorious "28s".

"I was attacked by 10 of them at eight o'clock on the Sunday," He said in an interview from St Albans this week.

"The attack carried on for four hours until 12."

Although the teenager said he screamed loudly for help while the gang rape was taking place, no prison authority investigated the disturbance - despite the fact that Unit D cells are small and that the attack took place in a cell near the section office.

When Correctional Services members finally intervened, the teenager was taken to the prison hospital where he was examined and found to have a torn and bleeding rectum.

Blood samples were taken and he was later transferred to Livingstone Hospital where he received the anti-retroviral drug Nevirapine.

He was returned to St Albans and admitted to the prison hospital until last weekend when he was moved into a single cell for his protection because he had been threatened with death if he proceeded with the criminal case against his sex attackers.

He later pointed out his alleged assailants and criminal charges are being investigated.

Former attorney David Price, who is serving 15 years at St Albans for fraud and has been outspoken on prison conditions, described the jail conditions for juveniles as "horrific".

"Someone like (him) goes into prison for a short term and instead of being rehabilitated he is assaulted, raped, sodomised and because of the conditions in prison he comes out a hardened criminal. Prisons have become universities of crime."

Price said it was absurd that according to South African law, a man could not be raped, only sexually assaulted.

"How much longer will it take the government to legislate for male rape?" said Price.

"It took a lot of courage for this young man to tell his story - his parents did not even know about his plight when he agreed to talk.

"The time has come for society to do something about the many juveniles who should not be in adult prisons around the country."

Eastern Cape Correctional Services spokesperson Yvonne Matsheketwa confirmed that the teenager had been admitted to Livingstone Hospital after the attack and that a criminal case had later been opened.

"The inmate has been attending counselling sessions and has been moved to a single cell," she said.

Matsheketwa said an internal investigation by Correctional Services had also been launched to look into his claims that his screams for help had been ignored over a period of four hours.