By James Kilgore / Prison Legal News

In recent months a battle has erupted at Mangaung prison in South Africa. Mangaung, located near the city of Bloemfontein, is one of the country’s two privately-operated correctional facilities. Managed by British-based G4S, which bills itself as the “world’s largest security” company, Mangaung reflects a troubled criminal justice system littered with overcrowded, poorly resourced prisons. A September 2013 strike by guards from the Police and Prison Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) sparked the latest round of drama; the guards were protesting the dismissal of several shop stewards as well as poor working conditions. G4S responded by firing 300 prison staff.

In early October 2013, with the facility still reeling from the mass terminations, a female guard was held hostage for twelve hours. The next day another guard was stabbed. Speaking for G4S, company spokesman Andy Baker alleged that prisoners were being paid to destabilize Mangaung. “We assume it is linked to ongoing staffing strife,” he told the media, implying the union was behind the attacks.

At that point, Minister of Correctional Services Sbu Ndebele stepped in and placed Mangaung under the direct supervision of the state, essentially terminating G4S’s 25-year contract with the South African government signed in 2000. Ndebele claimed G4S management had lost “effective control over the prison.” The move reflected a broader rejection of private prisons by the South African government: Ndebele’s predecessor, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, had blocked the implementation of a bidding process for four more private prisons in 2011. As it presently stands, the country’s only privately-operated facility is Kutama Sinthumule in Limpopo province, co-owned by Kensani Corrections (Pty) Ltd. and the Florida-based GEO Group.

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By SAPA

Johannesburg – More than 11 600 prison inmates are participating in adult education and training (AET) programmes, Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said on Wednesday.

“Prisons are now correctional centres of rehabilitation,” Ndebele said in a statement.  Image courtesy www.statssa.gov.za

“Offenders are given new hope and encouragement to adopt a lifestyle that will result in a second chance towards becoming ideal citizens.”

He said his department was going all-out to make sure that inmates could become productive citizens on their release.

In April, Ndebele announced the compulsory registration for all inmates without a qualification equivalent to Grade Nine to complete the AET’s levels one to four.

“In September, 302 offenders, who completed various education and skills development programmes, graduated at the Leeuwkop Correctional Centre,” the minister said.

“This included 49 inmates who participated in the artisan development skills programme and qualified as artisans.”

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