Warder wounded amid daily prison stabbings

By Kristen Van Schie And Sapa Time of article published Oct 4, 2013

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Bloemfontein - Another prison guard was stabbed at the Mangaung prison in Bloemfontein on Thursday, G4S Security said.

There had been stabbings at the prison every day this week, said G4S Africa head Andy Baker, but he could not say how many.

“We have affidavits from inmates that allege that payments are made to carry out attacks,” he said.

This comes a day after a woman was held by four inmates for 12 hours at the prison.

She was held with a weapon made from a sharpened piece of metal.

Earlier on Wednesday morning, the inmates had injured two warders who tried to step in when their colleague was grabbed. They were maximum security prisoners serving time for rape, murder and robbery.

For 12 hours, they negotiated. The men wanted access to a cellphone to speak to Correctional Services acting national commissioner Nontsikelelo Jolingana.

For 12 hours, every hour, they presented their hostage to the negotiators.

The SAPS brought in members of visible policing, tactical response and public order policing teams, the air wing, the detective service and hostage negotiators.

It was the special task force that ended it at 9.10pm.

The woman was freed, unharmed; the inmates, taken into custody. Not a single shot was fired.

“The police did an immaculate job,” said Baker. “(The employee) was obviously upset and shaken, but we confirmed that she was completely unharmed. She’s now receiving counselling.”

But, the Police and Prison Civil Rights Union (Popcru) – of which the affected employee is a member – is not satisfied.

Last month, it sent a petition to the human resources director at the Mangaung prison lamenting, among other issues, the safety of its members.

The petition listed more than 30 incidents over a number of years where Popcru members were attacked by prisoners at Mangaung – including the earlier attempted rape of the same woman held hostage.

They also include:

* Four incidents of prisoners throwing boiling water on employees;

* Two members assaulted with pool balls;

* Sixteen stabbing incidents;

* The rape of a nurse in her consulting room;

* An attempted rape; and

* Numerous assaults with a variety of items, including keys, broomsticks and a coffee tin.

Popcru regional secretary Lawrence Msinto called these just “the tip of the iceberg”.

The union claims in the petition that, with tightened security, the majority of assaults could have been prevented.

It said most of the incidents happened when a warder was left alone with “60 to 64 inmates” and said response times by the prison’s emergency support team – which it said has only nine members – is slow.

Msinto also alleged that the woman held hostage had not worked in close contact with prisoners for years, and was part of a group of unqualified staff roped in to fill the gap created when G4S fired 331 warders last month for taking part in an unprotected strike.

Baker called the claim “completely untrue”.

He said the woman was a programme supervision officer and worked on a daily basis with inmates on vocational projects.

“If somebody leaves our employ and comes back, they would have to do a refresher course, but she was in direct working contact with the prisoners every day,” said Baker.

He said Mangaung’s prisoner- to-warder ratio of 60 to one was in accordance with G4S’s contract with Correctional Services.

“Our health and safety standards are world class. We are the only Correctional Services facility to achieve a four-star compliance rating in 2012.”

Baker said despite the lay-offs after the unprotected strike, it had drawn on its 13 500 staff complement countrywide to fill the gap, and said the replacement warders were all “fully certified and qualified.”

“We’ve managed this prison for 12 years. We have nearly 3 000 grade A maximum security prisoners – it’s a very dangerous environment. But our incident rate compared with other prisons’ incident rates over 12 years is excellent.”

Correctional Services spokesman Logan Maistry said the department was doing everything possible to ensure the situation at Mangaung returned to normality as soon as possible.

“This is a public-private partnership correctional centre. The contractor must comply with all the terms and conditions of this partnership

. In the case of any breach, the department will not hesitate to take action.”

The Star

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