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Resource ID: #26290
Subject: International Reporting
Source: WITS Journalism
Affiliation: 
Date: May 26, 28; Oct. 9, 11, 25, 28, 2013

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Description

Global security firm G4S runs a prison for profit in Bloemfontein, South Africa. I work for the Wits Justice Project, a collective of investigative journalists who research the criminal justice system. I visited the prison for the first time in September 2012 and talked to some of the inmates who had written to us. Their tales were worrying; they complained about the 'Ninjas'; the Emergency Security Team (EST), a group of about eight armed men who are called to emergency situations. They are supposed to use minimum force, but according to the prisoners, they went completely overboard. They would take prisoners to the single cell unit, strip them naked, pour water over them and electroshock them with the electronically charged shields they carry with them. Also, the inmates told me how they would be injected forcibly with anti-psychotic drugs, while some of them did not suffer from any mental illness. In addition, they spoke to me about very lengthy isolation, some were placed in isolation cells for up to three years, I spoke to approximately 70 inmates and 25 warders over a period of a year, but these three sources were most crucial: The general. One of the inmates, a general in one of the infamous prison gangs, supplied with me dossiers and names of inmates who had been electroshocked, forcibly injected or placed in isolation for unlawful periods (up to 3 years). The deep throat. A government official who had worked at the prison was very concerned and had written a report in 2009 listing 62 inmates who had been placed in isolation up to 3 years, some of whom had been denied life saving TB and HIV medication. he also compared the prison to Guantanamo bay and mentioned excessive electroshocking The freedom fighter. A warder and informal labour union leader was very helpful in providing an entry with other warders and he leaked interesting information. An anonymous source eventually provided the smoking gun: video and audio footage of a forced injection and audio of electro shocking. I wrote three main stories about the prison and chose to publish in South Africa as well as in the UK, as G4S is head quartered there. I wrote pieces for the South African Citypress and the Mail and Guardian, simultaneously running a story in the British Guardian. When I finally broke the big story on the electroshocks and the forced injections, I also worked closely with the BBC and the South African investigative tv programme Carte Blanche, I provided them access to the results of my year-long research and they produced tv items that were broadcast at the same time as my stories ran in the newspapers. This in turn led to a worldwide coverage of the issue.

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