Prison for Profit

Ilse van Velzen, Femke van Velzen

Hard-hitting documentary about the grim reality inside South Africa’s Mangaung Prison. Run by private multinational security company G4S, ill-treatment, torture and neglect are rampant and underpaid prison guards fear for their lives. With accounts from whistleblowers, warders and ex-inmates, and shocking leaked video footage.

When inmates are seen as mere instruments to make money, how can a prison function at all? Investigative journalist Ruth Hopkins is on a quest to expose the consequences of prison privatisation in South Africa. She talks to whistleblowers, analyses damning leaked video footage, and tries with all her might to get her story out there. We meet Shakes, a soft-spoken warder at Mangaung Prison. The stress of his job takes its toll on his private life. ‘It’s survival of the fittest,’ he says. Francis, an ex inmate, experienced this struggle from the other side: he is heavily traumatised and permanently injured from ill-treatment.

Filmmakers Ilse and Femke van Velzen (Weapon of War, Justice for Sale) show the cost of abandoning rehabilitation in favour of profits in the prison system: fear, violence and dehumanisation.


Ilse van Velzen, Femke van Velzen
Country of production
Netherlands, The
83 minutes
Spoken language
Production company
IF Productions
World Sales
Java Films
Dutch distributor
Cinema Delicatessen