South Africa: inmates complain about the excessive use of force by prison officials

The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) said it has been approached by inmates, officials, and associations representing inmates, to address the alleged excessive use of force by correctional officials on inmates.

JICS spokesperson Emerantia Cupido said the use of force increased by 126, between 2019 and 2020.

She said given the lack of a functioning reporting system, the reports received from the DCS could not be verified and were likely to be under-reported.

Cupido said the majority of reports received on the use of force were for the defence of another person (an official or other inmate).

SA Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights president Miles Bhudu said the DCS has a notorious unit, called Emergency Support Team (EST) that was given a mandate to go on a rampage, to allegedly assault and brutalise prisoners, searching for contraband and cellular phones.

Bhudu said it is ironic that the same cellular phones were brought inside by their colleagues. He called for the department to re-train the EST and the ordinary warders, on their responsibilities and mandates. SA Sentenced and Awaiting Trial Prisoners Organisation chairperson Phindile Zweni said the EST unit’s officers thought they were above the laws of the country. Zweni alleged that the unit has been allowed, by the senior management, to act as such, saying they have never been challenged in court.