Reports of abuse at South Africa prison

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Staff at a South African prison allegedly administered electroshock as punishment to inmates and injected them against their will with anti-psychotic drugs, an investigative group reported, leading to a government pledge that it will investigate.

The maximum security Mangaung Correctional Centre was run by British security firm G4S, until South Africa's government took over earlier this month after a labor dispute and security and staffing issues arose.

G4S denied the alleged abuses. The Wits Justice Project, which investigates South Africa's criminal justice system and is a part of the University of Witwatersrand's journalism department, has collected accounts from the Mangaung prison over the past year. More than 30 inmates said security teams in the prison administered electroshock to "problematic" prisoners," and six wardens corroborated the allegations, said Ruth Hopkins, the investigative journalist for the project.

Inmates said security teams would "take them to a single cell unit, lock them in, undress them, put them on metal bed frame, pour water over them and electroshock them," she said. The Wits Justice Project has audio of what it said are electric shocks being used and a man crying out.

Five inmates have also signed affidavits saying they were forcibly administered with heavy anti-psychotic drugs, Hopkins said. Twenty other inmates backed the injections allegations, along with a nurse, she said.

"G4S has a zero-tolerance policy for the use of undue or excessive force at Mangaung Correctional Centre," it said Monday. "G4S staff members do not have access to, nor do they administer, any medication."

Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said Friday, when allegations came to light, "We will leave no stone unturned in this investigation."

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