prison inmates
Prisoners in jails and prisons are more susceptible to Coronavirus. Getty Images

South African prison officials suspended 13 guards Monday and issued an apology after pictures went viral showing inmates being entertained by women dressed in black body suits and knee-high boots while the guards looked on. The incident took place in one of Johannesburg’s most notorious prisons, which the inmates refer to as “Sun City.”

Images circulated on social media, which showed prison guards standing and watching as three women wearing revealing clothes performed dances and embraced an inmate dressed in an orange prison uniform at the Johannesburg Medium B Correctional Centre.

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In a press conference Monday, prison officials and the acting National Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, James Smalberger, said that the pictures were “authentic” and the officers involved in the act were handed suspension letters, Reuters reported. An investigation is also underway, Smalberger confirmed during the conference. He condemned the incident and stated that it was a significant breach of security and an act of violation of prison protocols.

“The form of entertainment as depicted on social media was not approved as it was not in line with the Department of Correctional Services' policies and procedures, which are clear in terms of appropriate clothing behaviour when inside a correctional environment,” Smalberger said in the news conference, BBC reported.

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“The department condemns this incident with the contempt it deserves, and right at the outset, we want to make it abundantly clear that we will leave no stone unturned to deal with this matter,” he added.

Smalberger also apologized to the “citizens of South Africa” and called the incident “very disturbing.”

The incident was said to have happened at the Johannesburg Correctional Centre, commonly referred to as the “Sun City.” The prison is known for housing some of the most violent and notorious criminals in South Africa.

“The pictures taken were of an event hosted in line with June Youth Month celebrations on the 21st of June,” Smalberger said.

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The annual Youth Month is celebrated to pay homage to the students killed during the 1976 anti-apartheid Soweto uprising. The uprising took place after a police officer killed a 12-year-old student, who was peacefully protesting the compulsory usage of “Afrikaans” as the medium of instruction in schools. It was estimated that the subsequent protests and clashes killed almost 175 people in South Africa.

The corrections department was aware of the celebrations and they had permitted the Youth month commemoration; however Smalberger said that the form of entertainment showcased on social media was definitely wrong.

“According to our policies, management should have gone in and stopped those ladies,” department spokesman Gibson Ngabakho said in an interview with South African Power FM Radio, according to CNN.

Smalberger said that the officials who had been suspended also included people from top management at the prison.

“We will make sure that those found to be guilty face the full consequences of their actions, and measures will be put in place to make sure similar incident do not happen again,” Smalberger said.

Twitter users also reacted to the news after the pictures went viral.