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Prison for Profit: Unearthing the Inhumane Conditions of South Africa's Privatised Prisons

"Prison for Profit" is a chilling expose of the inhumane conditions in South Africa's privatised prisons.

Keywords: Prison for Profit, Mangaung Prison, privatisation, G4S, human rights, abuse, neglect, South Africa.


"Prison for Profit," directed by Femke van Velzen, is a chilling 2019 documentary that delves into the shocking conditions at South Africa's privately-run Mangaung Prison. The film uncovers rampant inmate torture, neglect, and the constant fear of underpaid prison guards. In today's context, the documentary is especially significant as it sheds light on the inhumane consequences of prison privatisation, a controversial issue in many countries.


The documentary takes us inside the walls of Mangaung Prison, a facility run by the multinational security company, G4S. It provides a stark portrayal of the cruel and inhumane conditions endured by the inmates, with stories of routine torture, abuse and medical neglect.

More film analysis:


"Prison for Profit" follows an investigative approach, meticulously detailing the various forms of human rights abuses within the prison. The depth of subject exploration is commendable, with the film providing a comprehensive view of the issue at hand. The presentation style is both moving and thought-provoking, compelling viewers to question the ethics of privatised prisons.

Historical and Factual Context:

Though the film is specific to Mangaung Prison, the issues raised have global relevance. An increasing number of countries are outsourcing their prisons to private companies, raising serious questions about accountability and human rights.

Key themes in the film:

  • The dehumanising effects of prison privatisation.
  • The prioritisation of profit over human rights and welfare.
  • The systemic neglect and abuse within the criminal justice system.

Film Comparisons:

While other films on iWonder also explore the prison system, "Prison for Profit" offers a unique perspective by focusing on a prison in South Africa and the specific issue of privatisation.

Noteworthy Moments:

The testimonies of the former prison guards, who speak about their fear and the pressure to maintain control at any cost, are particularly impactful.


The documentary has an IMDB score of 6.7, indicating a generally positive reception.


"Prison for Profit" is an important film that brings attention to the dire consequences of prison privatisation. It's a must-watch for anyone interested in human rights, criminal justice, or societal issues.

Watch Prison For Profit - Streaming Online | iwonder (Free Trial)
An investigation into the shocking conditions at South Africa’s privately-run Mangaung Prison, where inmate torture and neglect are rampant, and underpaid prison guards fear for their lives.

More film information:

IMDB: 6.7
Awards: 1 nomination: One World International Human Rights DFF

Inmates: Victims of systemic abuse and neglect
Former Prison Guards: Fearful and underpaid workers tasked to maintain control

Mangaung Prison, South Africa

Key Questions Raised by the Film:

What are the ethical implications of prison privatisation?

How can human rights be ensured in privatised prisons?

I wonder what the film would be in another art form:

"The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander - if it was a famous book, for its exploration of systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

"Strange Fruit" by Billie Holiday - if it was a famous song, a haunting song about racial violence.

Picasso's "Guernica," - if it was a famous piece of art, symbolising the horrors and suffering caused by violence and war.

Angela Davis if it was a famous celebrity, for her vocal advocacy against prison industrial complex.

Grey - if it was a colour, representing the bleak and oppressive environment of Mangaung Prison.

Protest songs - if it was a music style, symbolising the call for justice and change.