A hard-hitting exposé of the profit-driven multinational running Mangaung private prison – The Misery Merchants: Life and Death in a Private South African Prison
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The Misery Merchants: Life and Death in a Private South African Prison by Ruth Hopkins is out at the end of March 2020 from Jacana Media.
Hopkins’s fiercely determined journalistic endeavours bring to light a litany of human rights abuses, from forcing prisoners to take behaviour-modifying drugs, to electric shock punishments, to extended spells in solitary. She gathers testimony from warders and prisoners alike.
The Misery Merchants is a hard-hitting exposé of G4S, the company running one of South Africa’s private prisons in Mangaung. Hopkins presents up-close encounters with the gangs who run the prisons, and a unique insight into the minds of the men on the torture squad, who doused inmates with water before electrocuting them, and in some cases, strapped down ‘unruly’ prisoners and forced anti-psychotic medicines into their systems.
In the Free State of Ace Magashule, both the gangs and the prison bosses competed to run Mangaung Prison, one of South Africa’s few private prisons. Torture and forced medication were the order of the day. Hopkins, a seasoned journalist, has interviewed over 100 prisoners and many prison warders in order to understand what makes this prison so dysfunctional. Her insights and revelations will astonish you.
This book follows several characters who were held in or worked at the prison. L is a prison gang general and an advocate for prisoners’ rights. He smuggled information on assaults, injections and corruption out of the prison for the author. Dan is a prison guard and a shop steward for the union. He led the workforce during two strikes and paid for it with his job and union membership. Setlai is a Department of Correctional Services official who blew the whistle on the abuse at Mangaung Prison in 2009. His reports were ignored and he was punished for speaking out. He was criminally charged and moved to another DCS post. Shakes is a member of the Emergency Security Team (EST) also known as the Ninjas. He engaged in torture and abuse but now feels ‘what we did was wrong’.
G4S is the largest security company in the world, and has its claws deep in SA’s government and private companies. Drive down any street and you’ll find a G4S van collecting or delivering money.