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Compliance through pain: electric shock equipment in South African prisons
24 June 2016

This policy brief is part of the ‘tools of torture' series. Other policy briefs in this series:

Various kinds of electric shock devices are authorised for use in South African prisons. These are designed to enforce compliance through pain, incapacitation or fear of activation. However, their use has been associated with acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This policy brief provides an overview of electric shock equipment and describes known harmful medical effects associated with its use. It highlights the use and misuse of these types of equipment in correctional institutions in South Africa, and outlines how and why this equipment is in breach of local, regional and international standards. This brief is designed to raise awareness of these concerns and to provide recommendations for change in how electric shock equipment is used in South Africa.

About the Omega Research Foundation

The Omega Research Foundation conducts research on the development, manufacture, trade and use of military, security and police equipment. Such equipment ranges from small arms and light weapons to less lethal and restraint equipment, surveillance systems and large-weapon systems. Omega promotes effective mechanisms to prevent the proliferation and misuse of such weapons through information sharing, awareness-raising workshops and training, and advocacy activities, targeting, among others, the strengthening of export-control regimes and use-of-force policies. For more, visit

The Omega Research Foundation is funded to do this research by the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Oak Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. The ISS is also grateful for support from the members of the ISS Partnership Forum: the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the USA.