Staff shortages fuelling prison violence

  • Ayanda Mkhwanazi
  • January 28, 2015
  • Health-e News Service

A shift in Johannesburg’s “Sun City” prison may stack just two warders against up to 1,400 inmates, according to a new report that argues staff shortages are fuelling prison violence.

Released yesterday, the report details 2010 research conducted in Johannesburg Correctional Centre, informally known as “Sun City.” Carried out by international health and human rights non-profit Just Detention International (JDI), the research interviewed groups of correctional officers in one of Johannesburg’s most overcrowded prisons.

According to the research, correctional officers said that not only did they lack the manpower to address prison violence, they often lacked the training to respond to crises or decide when to use force. The report also confirms that sexual violence in prisons remains a problem that is rarely addressed.
When crises erupt, warders reported struggling to find a way to control situations without breaking policy.

“We had a situation where prisoners locked themselves inside and we needed to get in because there were sick inmates who needed medical care, we ended up breaking down the door”, said Malesela Monare, who has been a warder at Leeuwkop Prison for 20 years.

“After we opened the gate, the prisons started assaulting us and threw stones at us,” he added. “In that situation, what are we supposed to do?”

“The worst case scenario is when an officer is faced with criminal charges made against him by the very offender who was acting violent…”