Prison for Profit

Directed by Ilse and Femke van Velzen

84 minutes / Color
English / English subtitles
Release: 2020
Copyright: 2019

South Africa’s Mangaung Prison was supposed to be a model facility. The first privately run prison in the country would be a place where the most hardened inmates could be rehabilitated through humane treatment and given access to programming and educational opportunities. Instead, run by global security giant G4S, Maungaung prison has been the focus of repeated complaints of violence, torture, abuse, and neglect.

PRISONS FOR PROFIT follows investigative journalist Ruth Hopkins, author of The Misery Merchants: Life and Death in a Private South African Prison, as she uncovers the truth about Mangaung. The film features leaked footage from within the prison—some shot by guards themselves—and interviews with former prisoners who left Mangaung with permanent physical and psychological damage.

Prisoners speak about being beaten, repeatedly stunned with electric shocks, and involuntary injected with powerful anti-psychotic drugs. And life is not great for the guards either. With G4S failing to create a safe environment, they regularly fear for their lives. In some of the most powerful sequences of the film, former guards admit to brutal treatment of inmates while also recognizing the toll their job has taken and the mistreatment they have faced at the hands of the company.

PRISONS FOR PROFIT is not only an investigation into the shocking conditions at Mangaung. It is also a condemnation of the conditions that result when the state contracts out core functions to companies driven by profit—and when prisoners become just another revenue stream.

“Ilse and Femke van Velzen are fearless and think nothing of taking on the biggest, most ruthless multinational corporations. Put simply, they are forces of nature.”Netherlands Film Fonds

In this searing documentary film, former prisoners, prison guard whistle-blowers and an investigative journalist paint a shocking picture of South Africa's first privatized prison, Mangaung.”Birkbeck University of London

"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."Movies that Matter

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Select Accolades

  • ACT Human Rights Film Festival 2020
  • HUMAN International Documentary Film Festival 2020
  • Geneva International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights 2020
  • One World International Human Rights Documentary Festival 2020
  • Movies That Matter Film Festival 2020
  • Stockholm Feminist Film Festival 2020
  • Millenium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival 2020
  • International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) 2019


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