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Prison for Profit

A privately run prison opened in South Africa in 2001. The multinational behind it promised mountains of gold. What came of that? A alarming documentary.

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Deze voorstelling maakt deel uit van Rialto Filmclub met als gastspreker deze maand Ernst-Jan Pfauth.

Prison for Profit

According to neoliberal ideology everything should be left to the free market, even traditionally public tasks, such as energy supply, public transport and healthcare. After all, its underlying philosophy presumes that the free market can do everything better and above all cheaper. In South Africa, these ideas were also applied to the prison system. The Mangaung Prison in Bloemfontein opened in 2001 as South Africa's first privately run penitentiary. A British multinational company promised the best facilities and humane treatment for the 3,000 prisoners – and naturally at the lowest cost.

In this documentary, filmmakers Femke and Ilse van Velzen show how this works in practice. The reality turns out to be shocking: the prisoners, seen as cash cows, are subject to excessive violence; rehabilitation is out of the question; and the wardens are not much better off either, being underpaid and overburdened. Prison for Profit shows what happens when profit maximization is given highest priority. What is the impact of privatization on society at large?