Private security industry under fire

SECURITY-20GUARDS“In South Africa, the industry is mushrooming; there are about 450 000 private security guards, nearly twice the number of police officers and soldiers combined. Increasingly, private security guards are involved in maintaining and upholding the criminal justice system.

The biggest security provider in the world, G4S, for example, employs about 16 000 people in South Africa. One of its main operations is a private prison in Bloemfontein.

In 2013, the Wits Justice Project revealed that G4S wardens were allegedly electroshocking inmates routinely, forcibly injecting them with antipsychotic drugs and holding them in isolation cells for up to four years. The department of correctional services announced an investigation into the allegations in November 2013, but their report is yet to be released. G4S has not dismissed or suspended any of its staff.”

Read senior journalist -Ruth Hopkins’- latest piece on the booming private security industry in South Africa as it appeared in City Press, here.

Additionally, listen to Hopkins and former inmate, Tebogo Meje, shed light on the cruel practice of solitary confinement and gross violation of human rights at Mangaung prison, here.

Related Readings

G4S accused of holding South African prisoners in isolation illegally

South African prisoners sue G4S over torture claims

British law firm acts for Bloem prisoners

10 things to know about parole in South Africa

  1. Parole or being put under correctional supervision is not a right, according to the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) – it needs to be earned by the offender.
  2. The Correctional Services Act stipulates that any offender sentenced after October 1, 2004, must be considered for placement on parole after serving half their sentence.
  3. The DCS says this is an automatic process which means that an offender does not have to apply to be considered for parole.
  4. The former minister of Correctional Services, Sbu Ndebele wrote about parole statistics for 2013/2014 in The Star on March 24, 2014. A graphic representation of these figures (below) shows that almost three-quarters of all detainees who are under correctional supervision are on parole.

Breakdown of Correctional Supervision

  1. According to the DCS parole pamphlet:
  • Offenders on parole are closely monitored, and those who are electronically monitored can be tracked.
  • Six months before the offender has completed his minimum sentence the Case Management Committee (CMC) will start the process on behalf of the offender. The CMC will activate the process and assemble a report known as a G326 which will be submitted to the Parole Board with their recommendations.
  1. 3 827 parole applications were approved monthly in 2014, according to a report in The Star on March 24, 2014.
  2. For offenders serving a life sentence, the Minster of Justice and Correctional Services makes the final decision on whether to grant parole or not.
  3. Parole is not the end of a sentence, but an offender serves the remainder of their sentence under supervision within the community.
  4. The Correctional Matters Amendment Act of 2011 states that a prisoner may be considered for medical parole if he or she is “terminally ill or physically incapacitated as a result of injury, disease or illness, so as to severely limit daily activity or inmate self-care”.
  5. To be considered for medical parole the offender doesn’t have to complete a minimum sentence but does need a recommendation from a medical practitioner. The decision for placement on medical parole can only be taken if medical parole has been recommended by of the Medical Advisory Board. This is applicable to all sentenced offenders irrespective of the date of sentence.


Read more about parole in previous articles by the Wits Justice Project:

Selebi’s medical parole: a promising precedent? Business Day, August 1, 2012.

The losing battle against TB in prisons, the Daily Maverick, July 1, 2013.

Selebi spotted shopping sparks renewed medical parole debate, October 7, 2013.

Related readings:

Correctional Supervision and Parole Board

The DCS annual report for 2013/2014


Invitation to Justice for Breakfast Roundtable on building the police service now for the future

jfb 1 AprilSave the Date:  Justice for Breakfast 2015

Beyond Good Cop/Bad Cop: Future-proofing South Africa’s police service

When: 1 April 2015 from 8 – 10am (breakfast will be served)

Where: Jacobs Area, Albert and Bert Wessels Building

Wits School of Governance, 2 St David’s Place, Parktown

RSVP: or 011 717 5678


About Justice for Breakfast 2015

This year the Justice for Breakfast will be offered in a series of 4 breakfast roundtables over the course of 2015 with stakeholders from the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster of departments, civil society stakeholders and academics.

The intention of this series will be to put the spotlight on the various links in the criminal justice chain.  Here key issues and solutions for policing, remand detention, courts, and corrections will be considered.

The series will coalesce around the spirit of the NDP, and there will be a concerted effort to move beyond the problematizing of issues to a solutions focus.

Our expectation is that this process will open up possibilities, and through the roundtable format, in a trusted space, to build on the ideas of the NDP with practical ‘how to’ ideas.


The first roundtable will look at Building the police service now for the future. A more detailed concept note will follow.

We look forward to welcoming you to a robust exchange.


Catherine Moat                                                                                                 

Head: Public Safety Programme

Wits School of Governance

Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi

Project Coordinator

Wits Justice Project

Wits School of Governance


WJP logo



Cops in the headlines

Stun grenades fired at protesting Cape Town students

IMG_7091 edit

Pupils from Philippi High School running from stun grenades that police used to disperse protesting students. Photo by Daneel Knoetze from Ground Up

On March 6, a protest by students in the Western Cape over the lack of infrastructure and classrooms at their school was violently dispersed by police with stun grenades.

According to Ground Up the police officers asked pupils to disperse but the students said all they wanted was to be heard. Police then threw stun grenades at the students, some of whom were sitting on the pavement.

According to GroundUp:

Among them was the limping figure of Bunzi Akhona, a schoolgirl whose tracksuit bottoms has been ripped open by the force of a stun grenade explosion. She told Ground Up that she was seated in the front line, and that the first grenade landed in her lap.

To read full article please follow this link:

Police use stun grenades; injure and disperse marching Philippi students, Ground UP, 6 March 2015

To watch the video of the protest follow this link:

WATCH: Stun grenades fired at protesting Cape Town learners, News24, 6 March 2015


Mpumalanga cop in hot water after ‘accidentally’ punching his new boss

Police constable is in ‘hot water’ after allegedly getting into a fist fight with the newly appointed Mpumalanga police commissioner, according to a Times Live article on 10 March 2015.

The newly appointed police commissioner for Mpumalanga province, Lt-Gen Mark Magadlela, was conducting a surprise visit to police stations in order to tackle corruption and deal with discipline in the police force.

Seeing a child sitting in a police van (against regulations), he approached the vehicle and saw that the driver was not there. He took the keys, just as the officer was returning to the car. Not realizing that the man taking the keys was his new boss, the officer tussled with the “thief” and fisticuffs were exchanged. On returning to the station to report the matter, the officer found that the “thief” was, in fact, the new commissioner.

An internal investigation has been launched.

To read full article follow this link:

Mpumalanga cop in hot water after ‘accidentally’ punching his new boss, Times Live, 10 March 2015


Police brutality claim goes viral on social media

The daughter of South Africa’s ambassador to Tunisia, Thandiswa Losi, was locked up for trying to video the police officers in Sunnyside assaulting a girl.

According to The Citizen, Losi claimed she was arrested when she was filming the assault of another girl.  She says that police officers noticed her filming, took her phone, slapped her and dragged her to a police van. Losi also accuses the police officers of verbally abusing her in the holding cells after Losi refused to unlock her phone so they could see what was recorded.

Losi took to Twitter and tweeted that she “witnessed police horrifically drag a girl by the neck, assaulting her”. She tweeted again saying: “I tried to record this, a police officer took my phone, hit me and arrested me”.

To read full article follow this link:

Police brutality claim goes viral on social media, The Citizen, 8 Mar 2015

Related articles:

Police allegedly assault ambassador’s daughter, The Citizen, 9 Mar 2015

Police brutality ‘victim’ distrusts the SAPS, The Citizen, 9 Mar 2015




Dagbreek interviews Carolyn Raphaely on prison and torture


Today WJP senior journalist, Carolyn Raphaely, was on Dagbreek (on the DSTV channel Kyknet) and spoke about prison conditions in South Africa.

Prisons in South Africa are suffering from gross overcrowding and shortages of warders. Inmates don’t have easy access to justice as many of them rely on Legal Aid, which is overworked and understaff to help them.

Raphaely has been following a torture case, of mass torture in St Albans prison in 2005, still being heard in the Port Elizabeth High Court.

To watch full interview please follow the link:

DAGBREEK: Gesels – Carolyn Raphaely

 Related articles

St Albans prison torture: A conspiracy of silence

St Albans: Tales of torture and intimidation continue, Daily Maverick

The measure of a nation: St Albans, the shame of South Africa’s prisons, Daily Maverick



Issues Plaguing the American Juvenile Justice System

“The state of the juvenile correction system in America is dreadfully lacking in effectiveness and is increasing in population year-over-year. The US has the highest youth incarceration rate in the world with 336 juvenile incarcerations per 100,000 youth – nearly five times as many as the second highest country.

• Only 12% of America’s youth is incarcerated after committing violent crimes. Most commit misdemeanors land them in residential facilities.
• New York in 2007 incarcerated 53% of youth convicted of misdemeanor offenses.
• Florida in 2008-2009 incarcerated 58% of youth convicted of misdemeanors.”

Check out the infographic  below created by Boston University’s Master of Criminal Justice Online program to learn more about the significant issues of racial inequality within the juvenile justice system in the US.

The infographic originally appeared here

Further readings

Why Are So Many Americans in Prison?

33 residents of Thembelihle get bail after 5 nights in prison


Photo: Thinkstock

Thirty three residents of Thembelihle informal settlement – including 7 women, 19 men and 5 children – were forced to spend 5 nights in jail after being arrested during a protest.

Despite being arrested on Thursday, 26 February 2015 the residents were not charged until Friday afternoon, February 27. This meant that they could not be brought before a court until Monday, resulting in their spending the weekend in prison.

Arguing at the bail hearing, the State said that it needed 7 days to verify the physical addresses of the resident because it’s difficult to verify addresses for people living in “unnavigable informal settlements”. Eventually, the Magistrate granted bail to all of the accused after hearing arguments from the State and the legal representatives of the detainees, the Socioeconomic Rights Insitute (SERI). However, the residents were forced to spend a fifth night in prison because the cashier was closed to process the payments.

According to the press statement released by SERI after the residents were released, this case was an obvious example of the violation of the protesters’ rights by the police and unlawful arrest. The statement pointed out that the the State had opposed bail for, amongst others, the following people:

  • A 54-year old domestic worker, who is the sole breadwinner for herself and her two schoolgoing children.
  • A woman with a 12-year old son she was forced to leave at home, and whose father is a longdistance truck driver, away for many days at a time.
  • An 18-year old school pupil.
  • Several people with fixed employment and addresses, and no criminal records.

In an opinion piece, which appeared on both the print and digital edition of Business Day on March 5, Frannky Rabkin comments on the arrest of the Thembelihle protesters and writes that justice at the Magistrate’s court is “rough and ready”. Recounting her experience working as a public defender at a Magistrate’s court, Frannky states that “seven days to verify a person’s address — shack or no shack — was the norm. When I asked why the police could not verify the accused’s address in one or even two days, I was met with puzzled bemusement: “They can’t,” was the answer.” She further makes a distinction on the different treatment of the poor and the rich at magistrate’s court, and highlights the different working conditions and workloads between the magistrate’s and Constitutional Court.

Ineffective application of bail impinges on the “right to freedom” that is enshrined in section 12(1) (a) of the South African constitution.

The WJP has done extensive research on the challenges facing Gauteng’s courts when it comes to application of bail. Read the research report here and an outcomes document of a roundtable debate pertaining to the matter, here.


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