The recent deaths of prisoners at Groenpunt and St Alban’s prisons raise serious concerns about the ability of the Department of Correctional Services to guarantee the safety of prisoners. The Groenpunt death is particularly worrying as officials are implicated in the death of the prisoner, after an assault witnessed by members of the press and during a visit by members of the Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services. The use of excessive force is prohibited by the Correctional Services Act and the Constitution guarantees the right to life and the freedom and security of the person. The state, through the Department of Correctional Services, has an inescapable duty to provide safe and secure custody to all prisoners under conditions consistent with human dignity. This has been confirmed in several South African court decisions.